A Voter’s Guide to Iran’s Presidential Race

What you need to know if you’re voting in the Iran presidential election — or viewing it from afar.

Will the next president actually make us miss Ahmadinejad?

Will the next president actually make us miss Ahmadinejad?

Four years after a contested presidential election that sent thousands of Iranians into the streets, sparked a harsh government crackdown, and ended with the house arrest of two opposition candidates, Iranians are again going to the polls to elect a president. The controversial Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, who has long since fallen from favor with the country’s clerical elite, is prevented by term limits from seeking reelection.

Six hopefuls are vying for the highest elected position and second most powerful position in Iran: three affiliated with the ruling conservative party, one from a reformist party, one centrist and one independent. Reformist Hassan Rowhani and conservative Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf are considered the two front-runners in the first-round June 14 election.

Rowhani, a member of the Association of Combatant Clerics, recently received endorsements from ex-presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hasemi Rafsanjani, with the latter describing Rowhani as a “more suitable” candidate to steer the country’s executive branch. As a former chief nuclear negotiator and secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Rowhani calls for a better relationship with the west and greater scrutiny of the nation’s nuclear program. He is an ardent critic of Iran’s current trajectory in global politics and has expressed support for freedom of speech. With his pledge to support and protect women and ethnic minorities, Rowhani has garnered support from the moderates, liberals, and young people, in addition to reformists. Rowhani is running with the slogan “Government of Prudence and Hope” and current polls show him with 27.2 percent of the vote.

Rowhani’s biggest threat comes from Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who unlike Rowhani has significant political experience, serving as the mayor of Tehran since 2005. He represents the conservative party and the Islamic Society of Engineers and has called for greater unity between currently divided political actors, namely Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadenijad but also within his own party. Prior to being elected mayor, Qalibaf served as the chief of national police from 1999 to 2005 under the appointment of Khamenei. Qalibaf is running with the slogan “Love and Sacrifice” and according to current polls has 20.1 percent of the vote.

Saeed Jalili, also a member of the conservative party, is affiliated with the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability. He supports greater privatization and pledges to crack down on corruption in the government. Jalili is the current chief nuclear negotiator and has been the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council since 2007. He lost a leg during the Iran-Iraq war. Although he is thought to be Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s preferred candidate, polls give him just 5.1 percent of the vote.

The candidate representing centrist views, Mohsen Rezaee, is a member of the Moderation and Development Party. Rezaee calls for subsidies for farmers and is an outspoken critic of current president Ahmadinejad’s handling of Iran’s oil revenue. He has presented plans to reduce the country’s inflation and pledges to select cabinet members from different ethnic groups throughout Iran. Rezaee is the former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and ran for president in 2009, coming in third. His slogan is “Say hello to life” and he currently has 10.7 percent of the vote.

Ali-Akbar Velayati, the third conservative candidate, is a member of the Islamic Coalition Party. He campaigns for better inter-governmental relations between the parliament and judiciary and economical overhaul, also pledging to address inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. Velayati was Iran’s minister of foreign affairs for more than 16 years and was the first person to hold that position for longer than 10 years. He serves as an advisor to the Supreme Leader and holds beliefs that, ideologically, are very similar to Khamenei’s. Velayati is running with the slogan “Complete government” and currently has 9.1 percent of the vote.

The sixth candidate, independent Mohammad Gharazi, pledges to run an anti-inflation administration. Gharazi has a long history in politics, serving as minister of petroleum from 1981 to 1985, minster of post, telegraph, and telephone from 1985 to 1997, and as a member of parliament from 1980 to 1984. He is campaigning with the slogan “Government against Inflation” and currently only has 1 percent of the vote.

Lizzie Rajasingh is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.