News / Middle East

Iran Presidential Candidates to Step Forward

Approval by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is key to decision of some candidates to run in electionApproval by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is key to decision of some candidates to run in election
x
Approval by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is key to decision of some candidates to run in election
Approval by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is key to decision of some candidates to run in election
Reuters
Few Iranian presidential elections have been so unpredictable but the next few days will at least narrow down who will stand in the ballot on June 14, for which candidate registration starts on Tuesday and ends on Saturday.
       
What is certain is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held ultimate power as Supreme Leader for 24 years, wants to avoid both the mass protests by reformists that greeted the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, and also more of the public feuding between the outgoing president's allies and fellow hardliners which has marked Ahmadinejad's second term.
       
"The Iranian leadership is so nervous, even if it doesn't need to be. The 2009 election was an enormous loss of face for the establishment and they're very concerned about a repetition,'' said a Western diplomat based in Tehran.
       
"Instead of trusting the people, they have put their trust in all sorts of security measures.
       
Some hopefuls have already declared they will register to run in the first round in six weeks. But many with the strongest chances have been hanging back, weighing their prospects until the last minute, with an eye not only to public opinion but to the Guardian Council of clerics and jurists which can reject any candidacy until a final roster is published around May 23.
       
With reformist groups largely suppressed over the past four years, the election campaign may reflect little of the debates among Iranians - on how to shore up an economy sagging under Western sanctions, or on foreign policy and the nuclear programme that has provoked international concern.
       
''There is an absence of political discussion, a lack of talk about taxation, the economy or relations with neighbouring countries," the Tehran-based diplomat said.

Ahmadinejad camp   

Ahmadinejad, who cannot seek a third mandate, secured an outright win with 62 percent in the four-man first round in 2009, provoking claims of fraud and the biggest protests since the revolution that deposed the Shah in 1979. If no candidate secures more than 50 percent, the runoff will be a week later.
       
Although Ahmadinejad, 56, is barred by law from running again, his rivals among fellow hardliners committed to resisting a dilution of the state's Islamist founding principles fear the confrontational incumbent will back a candidate - possibly his close aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei - to preserve his influence, even in the face of disapproval from the 73-year-old Khamenei.
       
''Unlike the first generation of revolutionary elite who played by the rules, Ahmadinejad's group has consistently pushed against regime red lines and at times even challenged the authority of the Supreme Leader," said Yasmin Alem, a U.S.-based expert on Iran's electoral system.
       
''For them, ambition trumps allegiance to the regime's principles."
       
For his part, Khamenei is turning to a loyal alliance which includes his adviser Ali Akbar Velayati, another ally Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel and charismatic Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, in the hope of securing a quick and painless election win, say analysts and diplomats.
       
But that informal coalition's final candidate has yet to be declared - a sign they are still sizing up the competition.

Former presidents

Even less clear are the intentions of former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, whose moderate candidacies would radically alter the contest. Both appear reluctant to stand unless given the nod from Khamenei but neither have ruled themselves out.
       
''I will not enter the field without his consent," Rafsanjani said this week, according to the Mehr news agency. ''If circumstances are such that there will be conflicts and disputes between me and the leader, we will all lose."
       
He was president from 1989 to 1997. Khatami, a reformist who succeeded Rafsanjani until 2005, retains much popularity, especially among secular middle classes, youth and women voters.
       
''Khatami is definitely the most loved," said a social media consultant in Tehran working for a reformist campaign. ''Everyone is waiting for his response. The Qalibaf and Velayati staff are calling his office constantly to see if he will run."
       
Both Rafsanjani and Khatami have been sidelined since 2009 and their association with reformist leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi - losing candidates to Ahmadinejad in 2009 and under house arrest for more than two years - has attracted sharp criticism from hardliners.
       
Mainstream contenders are not the only ones facing pressure from the authorities. Hooshang Amirahmadi, an academic living in the United States, intends to take part in the election to call for economic reform and ending confrontation with Washington but said that officials have tried to discourage him from standing.
       
''I was in Tehran two weeks ago and they told me to stay away," he told Reuters from New Jersey, where he is a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University.
       
''They said that my safety is in danger. They are really nervous and that surprises me."

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs