Iran’s presidential election race begins with six candidates in the fray

Hardliners dominate list with only one reformist among contenders approved by Guardian Council

The candidates for Iran’s presidential election are, clockwise from top left: former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, former justice and interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf. AP
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Iran’s Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili are among six candidates in the running for the presidency after having their candidacy approved by the country’s Guardian Council.

The June 28 vote for a successor to Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month, will be dominated by hardliners after the council, which oversees Iran’s elections, included only one reformist in the list of approved candidates released on Sunday.

Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, former justice and interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi and Masoud Pezeshkian, a reformist member of Parliament, complete the field.

Prominent disqualified figures include former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and veteran politician Ali Larijani, who were both previously barred from the 2021 election. Several members of former president Hassan Rouhani’s administration, including his vice president Eshagh Jahangiri, also had their candidacy rejected by the Guardian Council.

The approved candidates have until June 27 to campaign and will take part in five televised debates starting from June 17, state news agency Irna reported.

Last week, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the country needed a president who was “active, hardworking, attentive and loyal to the basics” of the 1979 Islamic Revolution – qualities that Mr Qalibaf's supporters have highlighted – in a potential signal of support for the Speaker.

Mr Qalibaf is more widely known as a former Revolutionary Guard general who was part of a crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against students in 2003, while serving as the country’s police chief.

Mr Ghazizadeh Hashemi had participated in the 2021 election, finishing fourth, while Mr Jalili and Mr Zakani withdrew from the race in support of Mr Raisi.

Mr Pezeshkian, who is serving his fifth term as a member of parliament, is known for his criticisms of hardline centres of power, especially as they became entrenched under the Raisi administration. As a heart surgeon, he demanded transparency regarding the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in 2022, while urging restraint in the nationwide protests that followed.

So far, none of the candidates has offered any specifics on their policy, though all have promised a better economic situation for the country as it suffers from sanctions by the US and other western nations over its nuclear programme.

Such matters of state remain Mr Khamenei's final decision, but past presidents have leaned either towards engagement or confrontation with the West over it.

With reporting from agencies

Updated: June 10, 2024, 1:33 PM