Iran clears six candidates for June 28 election to succeed late President Raisi

In Iran, the supreme leader, rather than the president, holds ultimate authority over all state matters

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Iran announced on Sunday the list of candidates approved to run in the presidential election scheduled for June 28. Notably absent from the list were former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, who have been disqualified.

The upcoming election, originally scheduled for 2025, was expedited due to the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May.

The Guardian Council, a body of clerics and jurists ultimately under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, approved the following six candidates:

  1. Current Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf
  2. Former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili
  3. MP Masoud Pezeshkian
  4. Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani
  5. Former interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi
  6. Incumbent vice president Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi

With the exception of Pezeshkian, who is affiliated with Iran’s “reformist” political camp, the other five candidates are considered either “conservative” or “ultraconservative.”

Approved candidates

The leading candidate among those approved is Parliament Speaker Ghalibaf. The 62-year-old has previously run in presidential elections in 2005 and 2013. In 2017, he withdrew from the race to support Raisi, who eventually came in second.

Ghalibaf, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, has served as a commander of the IRGC’s air force. He was Tehran’s mayor from 2005 to 2017 and has also served as the chief of the Iranian police forces.

After registering his candidacy at the interior ministry earlier this month, Ghalibaf pledged to improve the economy if elected.

Speaker of the Parliament of Iran Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf registers as a candidate for the presidential election at the Interior Ministry, in Tehran, Iran, June 3, 2024. (Via Reuters)

Another notable figure on the list is former deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator Jalili. Known for his inflexible negotiating stance, the 58-year-old is a staunch critic of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. During the 2021 election, he stepped back from the presidential race to throw his support behind Raisi’s candidacy.

Pezeshkian, the sole candidate not associated with the conservative faction, serves as a lawmaker representing the northwestern city of Tabriz in parliament. He has previously served as deputy speaker of parliament and, before that, as health minister.

Pezeshkian’s endorsement by the Guardian Council may be an effort by authorities to boost voter participation, which has notably declined in recent elections.

During the 2021 election, which resulted in Raisi’s presidency, the Guardian Council disqualified potential contenders who could have posed a challenge to Raisi. That election saw a record low turnout of just 48.8 percent. The Islamic Republic has traditionally relied on voter turnout to demonstrate its legitimacy.

Another contender is Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani, who registered for the 2021 election but ultimately withdrew from the presidential race to endorse Raisi’s candidacy.

Zakani indicated on Sunday that he does not intend to withdraw from the race this time, saying in a post on the social media platform X: “In the 2024 election, I will stay and compete until the end to continue the path of [Raisi].”

Other approved candidates include incumbent vice president and head of the Martyrs’ Foundation Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, who competed in the 2021 presidential race but garnered the fewest votes among four candidates, along with former interior minister and cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi.

Who has been disqualified?

Initially, 80 Iranians registered their candidacies for the June 28 election.

The best-known candidate was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, at 67, aimed to return to the presidency, a position he held for two consecutive terms from 2005 to 2013. Ahmadinejad has been disqualified for the third time, following his unsuccessful bids in the 2017 and 2021 presidential elections.

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registers as a candidate for the presidential election at the Interior Ministry, in Tehran, Iran, June 2, 2024. (Via Reuters)

Ahmadinejad, once a favored ally of Supreme Leader Khamenei, fell out of favor with the supreme leader during his second term and has been sidelined ever since.

Another prominent figure disqualified is Ali Larijani, a former speaker of parliament now considered a “moderate” in Iranian politics. Larijani faced disqualification in the 2021 election as well.

Other disqualified candidates include former central bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati, who ran in 2021 but lost to Raisi; former vice president Eshaq Jahangiri, who was also disqualified in 2021; and former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Vahid Haghanian.

In Iran, the supreme leader, rather than the president, holds ultimate authority over all state matters, including foreign policy and the nuclear program. Khamenei, 85, has been Iran’s supreme leader since 1989.

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