June 2013 Presidential elections in Iran — basic facts

  • The Presidential elections in Iran will be held on 14 June 2013. 
  • Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in his second term, after having been elected in 2005 and 2009. He will not be able to run for a third term. Though, allegedly he is grooming a close confidant to succeed him. 

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s chief-of-staff, is positioning himself as a candidate who will champion a nationalist rather than a theological narrative of Iran. Mashaei, whose daughter married Ahmadinejad’s son, has become the most controversial political figure in Iran, provoking harsh criticism from the conservative establishment, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

  • The president is directly elected by popular vote and must win an absolute majority in the first round of voting. If no majority is achieved, a run-off must occur between the two candidates who received the most votes.
  • The Guardian Council — an unelected body of 12 clerics — approved all candidates who want to run for office, and can veto any candidacy. Half of the members of the Guardian Council are directly appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The other half are appointed by him indirectly. Beyond that, the main criteria for candidates is that they are loyal to the Islamic Revolution.
  • The President of Iran is a subordinate of the Supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Ayatollah is the one who speaks the last word, and makes the important decisions, such as the engagement of Iran in the nuclear negotiations and the relations Iran has with the United States.

An article in Reuters gives interesting insights into the role the Supreme Leader is expected to play in the coming elections.

  • The Ayatollah Khamenei is going to make sure that the upcoming president is someone loyal to him, and does not have too much of a personal base himself. 2009 Presidential candidates Karroubi and Mousavi have been under house arrest for 2 years now and it doesn’t look like they stand any chance, nor are there expected to be other candidates who are going to carry on their struggle for ‘justice’.
  • This stance of the Supreme Leader will not unlikely decrease the chance of Ahmadinejad’s aspirations to continue to play are role in Iranian politics by preparing Mashaei for candidancy. Allegedly, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are not on the best terms and it wouldn’t be in the interest of Khamenei to have another person like Ahmadinejad in power — with the big mouth the incumbent President has.
  • The article goes on to name some potential candidates, but it is not that interesting to delve into the details now. The basic message is important here: the Supreme Leader is not going to make the same ‘mistake’ he allowed to be made by having contenders for candidacy who could run counter to his interests — the preservation of his own power and the preservation of the theocracy of Iran.
  • Given that the 2009 elections caused such an intense political crisis in Iran in the months after June 2009, it remains to be seen how the intellectual, liberal, urban Iranians will react to the decisions the Supreme Leaders will make, and how the Arab uprisings have an impact on the aspirations of many Iranians who feel that Iran is not where it is supposed to be. Though one cannot generalise that all the Iranians are discontent with the Supreme Leader or the President. Ahmadinejad must have had significant support in 2009, irrespective of whether the elections were rigged or not.
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