A prominent conservative commentator suggests that Iran’s parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf stands a chance to win the presidential election in 2025.
Naser Imani, stated in an interview with Tehran’s Khabar Online website that voters in Iran are likely to favor Ghalibaf to incumbent President Ebrahim Raisi. This shift comes as many traditional conservative politicians around Raisi have distanced themselves from him.
Imani pointed out that the reason for this departure of conservatives from Raisi’s camp is due to his appointments of hardliners, including members of the ultraconservative Paydari Party, to key positions in his government. While many conservatives initially supported Raisi during and immediately after the 2021 presidential elections, their opinion changed after observing his government’s performance over the past two years.
This dynamic casts more doubt on Raisi’s political future, especially considering the revealed rivalry with Ghalibaf. Raisi appears concerned about Ghalibaf’s parliament and its efforts to tarnish his image and question his efficiency as Iran’s executive body chief.
Imani further noted that hardliners surrounding President Raisi continue to influence appointments within his administration. He said: “I wish Raisi was careful enough not to use radical elements at managerial levels in his government.”
However, he appreciated the fact that although Raisi is deeply annoyed by criticism, he has rarely officially filed complaints against his critics.
Imani said: “One of the differences between Iran’s reformists and conservatives is that the conservatives bravely criticize their likeminded politicians and governments.” He added, “Currently conservatives criticize Raisi’s economic, social and cultural policies, but most of their criticisms are directed toward the hardliners he has appointed to key posts in his government.”
Speaking about Raisi’s own situation in Iran’s current political landscape, Imani said the biggest challenge Raisi is currently facing is about whether to take part in the Assembly of Experts election in March 2024 as a candidate from Tehran or Birjand in Khorasan Province.
Raisi’s concerns stem from the need for a substantial number of votes in Tehran compared to far fewer votes required in a smaller city like Birjand. His popularity among major clerics and their followers will significantly impact his electability.
The same issue is also valid for former President Hassan Rouhani, another Assembly of Experts member, and his choice about whether to run from Tehran or Semnan. In the previous rounds, both politicians were in good standing to run from the capital but none of them can be sure about their electability after massive anti-government protests in 2022 and 2023 that revealed people’s disillusionment regarding Iranian clerics.
Regarding Raisi’s political future considering Ghalibaf’s rising popularity, it’s important to note that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei holds the final say in most matters in Iran. If Khamenei wishes to keep Raisi in power for another term, he can exert his influence over the Guardian Council to ensure they do not endorse Ghalibaf’s qualification as a presidential candidate. The Guardian Council has a history of disqualifying notable figures, and Ghalibaf may face a similar fate.
The body that has previously disqualified big shots such former pragmatist President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not likely to come across any problem to kick out someone like Ghalibaf regardless of his ties with the IRGC and Khamenei’s household.
On the other hand, If Ghalibaf is fortunate, Khamenei may not be so keen to keep Raisi in power, particularly because replacing him with Ghalibaf will not be seen as a defeat for Khamenei, but a change of pawns at the right time.