New Iranian Presidential Election: Key Candidates

A comprehensive overview of Iran's presidential candidates, their backgrounds, and the current political climate in the run-up to the highly anticipated election.

Published June 28, 2024 - 00:06am

4 minutes read
Iran, Islamic Republic of

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The presidential race in Iran, set for this Friday, features six notable candidates vying to succeed the late Ibrahim Raisi, who tragically perished in a helicopter crash on May 19th. The competition is marked by a blend of ideological stances, with five conservative candidates and one reformist hoping to secure the nation's top executive position.

Among the candidates, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a well-known figure in Iranian politics, stands out. Born near the city of Mashhad on September 23, 1961, Ghalibaf has a long political career. He currently holds the position of Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, having been re-elected in the latest legislative elections in March. A former mayor of Tehran from 2005 to 2017, Ghalibaf also served in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during the Iran-Iraq War. Despite multiple presidential bids, he has yet to secure a win.

Another prominent conservative candidate is Saeed Jalili. Born in Mashhad on September 6, 1965, Jalili is a staunch opponent of rapprochement with Western nations. He served as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, where his inflexible stance earned him a reputation among Western diplomats. Having lost a leg in the Iran-Iraq War, Jalili is one of the representatives of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council. His past presidential campaigns in 2013 and 2017 resulted in withdrawals in favor of other candidates.

The reformist hopeful, Massoud Pezeshkian, is the oldest candidate at 69 years old. Originating from Azerbaijani heritage, Pezeshkian represents Tabriz in parliament and is known for his outspoken nature. He previously served as Health Minister under President Mohammad Khatami. While he was barred from the 2021 presidential race, his inclusion this year aims to mitigate low voter turnout, which recently hit a historic low during the 2020 parliamentary elections.

In addition to Ghalibaf and Jalili, another conservative candidate, Amir-Hossein Ghazi Zadeh-Hashemi, is in the race. Born on April 14, 1971, this hardliner has served multiple terms as Mashhad's MP and currently heads the Martyrs and Veterans Affairs Foundation. His last presidential run in 2021 yielded only 3.5% of the vote.

Alireza Zakani, another staunch conservative, has been the mayor of Tehran since August 2021. Although disqualified in previous presidential races, Zakani is known for his opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Hassan Rouhani's administration. Zakani's candidacy adds to the conservative bloc's heavy representation in this election.

Mustafa Pourmohammadi, the sole cleric in the race, rounds out the slate of conservative contenders. Born on December 23, 1959, in Qom, Pourmohammadi has held various roles in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security and served as both Interior Minister under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Justice Minister under Hassan Rouhani. Despite his extensive political background, Pourmohammadi's chances appear slim compared to his peers.

The political backdrop for this election is fraught with significance. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has emphasized the importance of robust voter turnout, highlighting the election's potential influence amid domestic and international tensions. Iran's intricate political system blends theocratic and democratic elements, with significant power concentrated in the hands of the Supreme Leader, juxtaposed against elected bodies like the presidency and parliament.

According to polling data from the Iranian parliament's research center, the reformist Pezeshkian currently leads with 23.5% support, followed by Ghalibaf at 16.9% and Jalili with 16.3%. The remaining candidates lag significantly behind, reflecting a potentially tight contest among the top tier.

This election also underscores the importance of the IRGC, a powerful military and political entity within Iran. The IRGC's influence extends into various sectors, making it a pivotal player in the country's complex power dynamics. The Guards' connections to the Supreme Leader bolster their status as a crucial force in maintaining the regime's stability amid ongoing regional and global challenges.


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