Iran’s Presidential Election: What to Expect

On June 18 Iranians are due to choose their next president after four years under Hassan Rouhani, US sanctions and nationwide protests. What to expect from the man who will lead the power? In the government structure the President of Iran is the second most important position after the Supreme Leader, and the chief of the executive branch. Nearly 60 millions of people are eligible voters but unlike 2017 when the turnout reached 70%, observers predict the lowest attendance at the polls in the Islamic Republic’s history amid public dissatisfaction, a difficult economic situation and a lack of freedom of expression. 

The Candidates

Despite nearly six hundred people registered to run for the elections, only seven candidates have been allowed to be the 8th Iranian president by Iran’s Guard Council. After three of them —lawmaker Alireza Zakani, former Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh, and Supreme National Security Council member Saeed Jalili—dropped out on June 16, three days before the opening of the polling stations, the choice among four candidates seems to be set in advance.

Ebrahim Raisi, the 60-year old conservative candidate, currently serving as chief justice, is considered to be the frontrunner of the elections, even if he is also seen as a possibile candidate to replace the Supreme Leader Khamenei when he passes away. This is the second time he runs for president: in 2017 he got 38% of the vote loosing against outgoing President Hassan Rouhani who appointed him to head the judiciary in 2019. In the last years he led his campaign strengthening his position fighting against corruption and branding himself a “rival to corruption, inefficiency and aristocracy”. Raisi has travelled in most Iranian provinces during his campaign and he wears a black turban like the Supreme Leader. 

Among the other candidates, 64-year-old moderate Abdolnaser Hemmati, former Central Bank Governor from 2018 till last month: Rouhani dismissed Hemmati from his post because of the presidential bid. Before working in the banking and insurance sectors, Hemmati was a state television journalist, he has tried to portray himself as a realist saying all the promises made by his opponents cannot be kept. He proposed to increase monthly financial help to low income families, he has shown support to restore the nuclear deal and lifting sanctions open to meet with Joe Biden. 

On the contrary who is an opponent of the nuclear deal is Mohsen Rezaei, dubbed a “perennial candidate” running the 2009 and 2013 presidential elections. He is a senior military officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and has headed the Expediency Council since 1997. He promised to include the youth, women, marginalised Iranians in his plans for the future and boost the ailing national currency. 

Last but not least, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, the youngest among the presidential candidates. The 50-year-old lawmaker and medical doctor wants to form a young government but he nearly has no chance to reach a double digits; he has been a representative of the people of Mashhad in the Iranian parliament for four consecutive terms and he is now a member of parliament.

The Main Issues

Economic hardship is probably the main concern for the Iranians who are called to elect their 8th President: the American sanctions imposed in 2018 worsened the economic crisis with inflation and an increasing unemployment rate. The last years have seen Iranians insurgency against the Government with unrest of activists, journalists and those who are opposing the establishment. Restoring the nuclear deal and establish good working relations with foreign officials, it may not be enough to convince Iranian to believe in fair and free elections. Frustration and disillusionment will probably have a bigger impact on the people with nearly no change for future, at least for the next four years.