Iran’s presidential election a matter of concern - GulfToday

Iran’s presidential election a matter of concern


Supporters hold posters of Iranian presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran. Reuters

Iranians will choose a new president on Friday (June 28). The election was due in 2025, but an early election became necessary because of the untimely death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month. Six candidates are in the race after the Guardian Council rejected 74 of them, including former president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who had served two terms from 2005 to 2013.

Another of the prominent politicians rejected by the Council was former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. The six contenders for the presidency are: Alireza Zakani, mayor of Tehran, Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, head of Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, former interior and justice minister, Saeed Jalili, former chief nuclear negotiator, Masoud Pezeshkian, Member of Parliament, and Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf, former mayor of Tehran.

Interestingly, of the six, five are conservatives, and there is a lone reformer. Conservatives are those who would not impose the strict puritanical regime, and the late Raisi was one of them. The lone reformer is Pezeshkian.

The two favourites are Jalili and Ghalibaf. While Jalili is seen as a hardliner, Ghalibaf, a technocrat is a moderate conservative. In the last 24 years, there have been two reformist presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Hassan Rouhani. The others were conservatives.

And in a way, the reformers and conservatives alternated as presidents. Khatami, the reformist was followed by Ahmedinejad, the hardliner. Ahmedinejad was followed by Rouhani, the reformer. And Rouhani has been followed by conservative Raisi. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei seemed to have remained above the fray, though he is considered to be a conservative.

It appears that the people of Iran are not bothered by the ideological labels of whether the candidates are conservatives or reformers. They are facing a tough economic situation, and they are looking to the presidential candidates to offer a way out of the economic distress.

And they find that none of the six contenders are offering any economic programme. Says a 54-year-old shop-owner in Teheran’s Grand Bazar, Hamid Habibi, “They promise change, but won’t do much. I’ve watched the debates and campaigns; they speak beautifully but need to back their words with action.”

Iran is facing challenges at home and on the international front. At home, young people are fretting against the puritanical dress code, especially after the nationwide protests in 2022 when a Kurdish young woman, Mahsina Amini, 22, died in the custody of the moral police.

The Raisi government had managed to put down the protests, but the people, especially the young, are not willing to remain passive. Then there is the depressing economic situation. The economic hardship is connected to the position of Iran on nuclear power and the negotiations with the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia.

The US-led Western countries want Iran to be open to inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is seen by Iran as a proxy of the United States.

The economic sanctions imposed by the West on Iran because of the enrichment of uranium in the Natz nuclear reactor has been pinching the ordinary Iranian’s daily life and it had also dampened Iran’s international trade and domestic economic growth. If a conservative were to win the election on June 28, and Donald Trump were to win the November presidential election in America, then there would be a deadlock.

It was Trump who had pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran which Democrat president Barack Obama had managed to clinch. So, Iran’s presidential election is a matter of concern beyond Iran.


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