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Questions Begin as Registration of Candidates Ends in Iran


Registration for Iran’s June 28 snap elections ended on Monday with 80 candidates. Many are questioning the high number and speculating on who will ultimately be approved by the Guardian Council to participate in the race.

Over half of the registrations took place on the last day and even final hours. Authorities say 80 candidates registered in the past five days.

An interior ministry official said Monday after the closure of registration that the Guardian Council will announce the names of qualified candidates on June 11. The number of qualified candidates can range from around four to over ten, based on past instances.

Approved candidates will have two weeks to campaign before the election day. There will be a run-off election on July 5 if none of the candidates gains than 50% of the ballots cast.

The top candidates who registered Monday included Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the conservative speaker of parliament, Es’haq Jahangiri, former Vice President in Hassan Rouhani’s administration, as well as two of the incumbent ministers, namely minister of roads and urban development, Mehrdad Bazrpash, and minister of cooperatives, Sowlat Mortazavi.

Es’haq Jahangiri registering for the presidential election. June 3, 2024

The majority of registered candidates are current and former lawmakers, most of whom have little chance of being among the final candidates approved to run.

There are numerous in election-time political parties and groups in Iran, but candidates usually register independently from their parties and later acquire the support of one or more ‘fronts’ that form at election time. Hence, there may be several candidates from the same political party in the same election with or without endorsement of their parties or the political ‘front’ to which they belong.

Jahangiri, for instance, is one of the founders of the reformist Executives of Construction Party (Kargozaran) and Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former governor of the Central Bank of Iran, also hails from the same party.

One of the major questions now is which of the current and former officials will be approved and whether any of the moderates and reformists will be allowed to stand in.

From the conservative camp, hardline politician Saeid Jalili and conservative Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, along with the more “moderate” conservative Ali Larijani, are the most notable candidates, assuming they are approved by the Guardian Council.

Ultra-hardliner politician Saeed Jalili. Undated photo

On the reformist and moderate side, Jahangiri and Hemmati are among the main contenders.

Hemmati ran for president before but failed to garner a significant support base.

Jahangiri was disqualified in the previous presidential election. If he is allowed to run this time, he can tap into the reformist camp’s support and challenge his conservative counterparts.

On Monday, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dedicated most of his speech at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, to the Gaza-Israel conflict. He spoke only briefly about the upcoming elections, following a eulogy for President Ebrahim Raisi, whose death in a helicopter crash on May 19 prompted the snap elections.

As usual, Khamenei, who is believed to have the final say on the selection of candidates, called for a high voter turnout and the creation of an “epic.” He also urged candidates to avoid slander and refrain from smearing each other.

Many believe this is unlikely, even if all approved candidates are from the Principlist, or conservative, spectrum. Supporters of former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who also represents Khamenei in the Supreme National Security Council, and those of Ghalibaf have been leading an intense campaign against each other. This rivalry is expected to intensify in the coming days.

Ghalibaf, who was elected as Speaker of Parliament just last week, is a veteran candidate who is unlikely to be barred from running. However, he and his family face numerous corruption accusations, making him an easy target for revelations by rival camps, particularly supporters of Saeed Jalili. Jalili, like Ghalibaf, is also unlikely to be disqualified.

Jahangiri, on the other hand, has registered to run twice before. He was largely seen as Hassan Rouhani’s ‘supporting’ candidate in the 2017 elections, for which he was qualified to run. However, in 2021, he was barred from running and could potentially be disqualified again this time.

Populist former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is widely believed to have no place in the upcoming elections. He has turned into a critic of the ruling elite, who barely tolerate him.