Tehran, Iran – At the opening Friday of the polling stations for the Iranian presidential election, five men will be on the ballot box, but one enjoys a significant lead over the others.
Observers predict that Iran’s eighth president will be elected with a very low turnout amid public disillusionment and widespread disqualification of reformist and pragmatic candidates by the Council of Guardians, a 12-member constitutional oversight body.
Here are the men allowed to embark on the hard-hitting race for a presidency that could influence how Iran approaches its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, US sanctions and a struggling economy defined by soaring inflation.
Ebrahim Raisi, the current Iranian chief justice, is by far the favorite. It enjoys wide support from conservative and radical politicians and factions and has largely dominated the polls. Like Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi wears a black turban, indicating that he is a sayyid – a descendant of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad.
The 60-year-old cleric is also seen as the most likely candidate to replace Khamenei, 82, upon his death, a point raised by an opponent during televised presidential debates as something that could cause him to drop the presidency if he wins it. .
Raisi grew up in the northeastern town of Mashhad, an important religious center for Shia Muslims where Imam Reza, the eighth Shia imam, is buried. He attended Qom Seminary and studied with some of Iran’s most prominent clerics. His education was a point of contention in the debates, where he said he had a JD and denied having only six levels of formal education.
After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, a young Raisi joined the prosecutor’s office in Masjed Soleyman in southwest Iran and later became the prosecutor for several jurisdictions. He moved to the capital, Tehran, in 1985 after being appointed deputy prosecutor.
He is believed to have played a role in the mass execution of political prisoners that took place in 1988, shortly after the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. He never publicly addressed the allegations. For the next three decades, he served as Tehran’s prosecutor, head of the General Inspectorate Organization, attorney general of the Special Clergy Tribunal, and deputy chief justice.
The Supreme Leader appointed Raisi as head of Atan-e Quds Razavi, the influential shrine of Imam Reza, in March 2016. Heading one of Iran’s largest bonyads, or charitable trusts, gave Raisi the control of assets worth billions of dollars and solidified its position among the clerical and business elite of Mashhad.
Raisi ran unsuccessfully against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election, garnering 38% of the vote, or just under 16 million votes. Khamenei appointed Raisi as head of the judiciary in 2019, and he tried to strengthen his position as an anti-corruption champion by targeting insiders and holding public trials, while effectively starting his presidential campaign early in the morning. visiting almost all 32 Iranian provinces. Raisi called himself a “rival to corruption, inefficiency and aristocracy” and said he would maintain the nuclear deal as a state deal, but believes a “strong government Is necessary to steer it in the right direction.
An unlikely candidate, the moderate Abdolnaser Hemmati tried to present himself as a realist. He became governor of the Central Bank of Iran in 2018 during a tumultuous time, shortly after US President Donald Trump backed down on the nuclear deal and began imposing harsh sanctions that ultimately engulfed the entire Iranian economy.
The 64-year-old was dismissed from his post by Rouhani earlier this month for running for president, but his opponents have tried to portray him as one of the figures behind the current dire economic situation.
A former state television journalist and veteran of Iran’s banking and insurance industries, Hemmati tried to oppose some of the more outlandish promises made by the candidates, saying they couldn’t be made then that the country continues to fight against sanctions and that governments run massive budget deficits. But he also promised to dramatically increase monthly cash payments to low-income families and once again bring inflation down to single-digit territory.
Hemmati explicitly supported the reinstatement of the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions in an electoral cycle where the problems arising from it were barely mentioned after the supreme leader said foreign policy was not a “priority for the people”. He also suggested he was open to meeting with US President Joe Biden if such a meeting fell within the framework of the Iranian establishment.
Former nuclear negotiator under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the intransigent Saeed Jalili is now the representative of the Supreme Leader at the Supreme National Security Council, a high-level body currently in charge of the nuclear issue.
He ran unsuccessfully in the 2013 election which Rouhani won for his first term, finishing third with around 11% of the vote. Jalili is a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal and the financial transparency legislation required to complete Iran’s plan of action with the Intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF). He pledged to “cancel” the sanctions by increasing local production so that Iran’s rivals have no choice but to lift the sanctions.
The 55-year-old was born in Mashhad, earned a doctorate in political science and then served as a Basij volunteer during the 1980s war with neighboring Iraq. He was seriously injured in the fighting and lost the lower part of his right leg.
Jalili worked as a university professor after the war, then entered the Foreign Ministry, rising through the ranks to become a member of the National Security Council. He was promoted to Secretary of the Council in 2007 as he became a central figure in international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. His term ended in 2013, but he still sits on the board and is also a member of another influential body, the Opportunity Council.
Nicknamed the “Eternal Candidate” for his years trying to become president, Mohsen Rezaei has led the Opportunity Council since 1997.
The hard-line politician and military man was born into a religious Bakhtiyari family and is also a veteran of the war with Iraq. He joined the nascent Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), became its intelligence chief, and was instrumental in expanding the elite force. In 1981, Rezaei was appointed by the then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Commander-in-Chief of the IRGC and held that post for 16 years.
The 66-year-old is also among those who have for years resisted implementing legislation to satisfy the FATF, saying it will hurt the country and prevent Iran from circumventing US sanctions. Rezaei, who has previously suggested taking US citizens hostage for ransom, is also an opponent of the nuclear deal and has supported the cancellation of sanctions “so that the enemy regrets” that he sanctions Iran.
He pledged to increase the ailing national currency, identify and redirect tens of billions of dollars of poorly spent budget, increase cash grants tenfold and heavily include marginalized youth, women and Iranians in his plans for the future.
Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hachemi
Another candidate in the extremely low polls, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi is the youngest of the presidential candidates at 50. He is a long-time legislator and otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat specialist).
A curator from Fariman in Khorasan Razavi, he served as the representative of the people of Mashhad in the Iranian parliament for four consecutive terms. Ghazizadeh served as deputy speaker of parliament under Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the first year of the current parliament, which came to power amid widespread disqualification of reformists and low turnout in February 2020. He was replaced earlier this month and is now a member of parliament.
During the three presidential debates, he attempted to play the adult in the room, largely refraining from personal blows and sticking to the questions posed by the state television host as others exchanged views. pikes.
Ghazizadeh, a cousin of former health minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi and current lawmaker Ehsan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, has vowed to form a young government to guide the revolution into its second phase under the leadership of the Supreme Leader.