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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid