Seven candidates will be vying for Iran’s presidency in the elections scheduled on June 18, including five conservatives and two reformists.
Many top reformist candidates, including a key ally of President Hassan Rouhani, were disqualified by Iran’s top election supervisory body Guardian Council. The approved names by announced by the Interior Ministry on Tuesday.
The disqualification of key reformists candidates has reportedly drawn the ire of the incumbent president, who is believed to have written a letter to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei protesting against the decision.
Reacting to the announcement, official spokesman Ali Rabaie, said minimal participation in the election is “not in anyone’s interest”, suggesting that the disqualification of candidates could affect turnout in the election.
Here are brief profiles of candidates in the electoral race to claim the top executive post in the country.
Ebrahim Raeisi, 60, the chief of Iran’s judiciary, remains the best bet for conservatives to succeed incumbent Rouhani. He was Rouhani’s main challenger in the 2017 presidential election but failed to overcome the massive reformist tide at that time.
Although he has filed his nomination as an independent, he enjoys the backing of the conservative conglomerate. One of Khamenei’s close confidantes, Raeisi is likely to adopt a firm approach in Iran’s foreign policy, especially in negotiations with the US and European powers on reviving the nuclear deal.
He has held several key posts in the Iranian judiciary since the 1979 revolution, besides heading the influential Rezavi shrine complex in northeastern Mashhad province. In March 2019, he was chosen by Khamenei to head the country’s judiciary after the death of former chief justice Mahmoud Shahroudi.
Several candidates have in the past few days dropped out in favor of Raeisi, including the former defense minister Hossein Dehghan, bolstering his chances as the main frontrunner in the race for the presidency.
Mohsen Rezaei, 67, a veteran military figure and former chief of Iran’s revolutionary guards (IRGC), unsuccessfully contested presidential elections twice in the past — in 2009 and 2013.
Currently, he serves as the secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, a government body tasked with resolving disputes between Guardian Council and the parliament.
Although he lost multiple electoral battles over the past two decades, the former military commander has refused to retire from public life. In the military corridors, he is praised for his role as the head of IRGC in Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Saeed Jalili, 56, is among the most senior conservative political figures in Iran. He previously served as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and headed the country’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council.
A veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, Jalili also contested for the top post in 2013 but came third in the list behind the conservative challenger Baqer Qalibaf.
Jalili, while choosing to keep a low profile, has for long been the establishment’s favorite in Iran. Wikileaks in 2008 quoted a European official who had met Jalili, he was a “true product of the Iranian revolution”. As a nuclear negotiator, he was described as a feisty figure not willing to give concessions.
In recent days, Jalili has been embroiled in a war of words on Twitter with fellow presidential candidate Ali Larijani, who ultimately faced disqualification. Observers say Jalili is likely to withdraw in favor of Raeisi to put up a united front.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, 51, a politician is presently serving as the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament. He has been a lawmaker since 2008, representing various constituencies in northeastern Mashhad province.
Hashemi has been one of the main forces behind the passing of the strategic action plan for lifting sanctions, under which the Iranian government was obliged to reduce its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal last year.
The senior lawmaker is contesting as an independent candidate but is likely to withdraw candidacy, particularly in favor of Raeisi, according to observers.
Alireza Zakani, 56, is a senior Iranian conservative politician and a member of parliament. He owns two Persian language media publications and currently heads the research department of the Iranian parliament.
He previously represented Tehran in the parliament from 2004-2016.
Zakani had twice registered to run for the presidency — in 2013 and 2017. But his candidacy was rejected by the Guardian Council on both occasions. While his candidacy has been approved now, but in presence of other stronger conservative figures, observers say his chances to win the race look bleak.
Mohsen Mehralizadeh, 64, a senior reformist political figure and a former vice president.
An ethnic Azerbaijani, he has also previously served as the governor of northeastern Khorasan and the central Isfahan provinces, besides heading the National Sports Organization of Iran, the country’s top sports body.
Mehralizadeh had tried his luck in 2005 presidential polls a well, claiming representative of the younger generation. His candidacy was also rejected by the Guardian Council in 2005, but a day later, due to the intervention of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he joined the race. But he ended up last on the list of seven candidates.
In the absence of another heavyweight reformist candidate, the 2021 election appears open for Mehralizadeh as the main reformist candidate. Following his approval on Tuesday, he said he will stay in the race and will not withdraw in favor of any other candidates.
AbdolNaser Hemmati, 64, is Iran’s top banker who has been heading the Central Bank of Iran since 2018. He is seen as a close ally of President Hassan Rouhani, and one of the two reformist candidates in the race for the presidency.
Hemmati previously served as the vice president of Iran’s state-run media organization, governor of the state-owned insurance body, and chief executive of the country’s two leading banks.
His tenure at the country’s top bank has coincided with the Iranian currency, rial, losing value against the foreign currencies, leading to inflation and causing discontent among the general masses.
With just two reformists now in the race, it remains to be seen which of them will get the final nod from the moderate camp to face the leading conservative candidate.