This Friday, the 12th Iranian Presidential Election is set to be held. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani is running for a second term and faces opposing candidates including Ebrahim Raisi and Mostafa Mir-Salim Based on the Iranian Consitution, all potential Presidential candidates are required to be vetted by the Guardian Council and must possess necessary political and religious qualification. A total of 1,600 individuals initially put their name to run for president. Out of the 1,600 total candidates, the Guardian Council approved six of them. The three remaining candidates include Rouhani, Raisi, and Mir-Salim. Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former Minister of Industry Mostafa Hashemitaba, and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri were also approved to run but dropped out of the race over the past week.
Here is an overview of the candidates and a preliminary prediction of the election results:
Hassan Rouhani is the incumbent President of Iran and is seeking to run for a second four-year term. He is a member of the centrist Moderation and Development Party. Rouhani is running on his record as President of Iran and hopes to continue the progress that has been made. The administration of Rouhani is credited with negotiating and implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015, which is a comprehensive agreement with several nations regarding the Iranian nuclear program. Additionally, Rouhani has sought to improve diplomatic ties with numerous nations and improve Iran’s overall international perception. Much of the changes in the realm of foreign policy as opposed by Rouhani has been blocked by the conservative political factions within Iran and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who fear that any changes regarding foreign policy will weaken the Iranian government and make Iran dependent on nations that are hostile to its interests.
Hasan Rouhani is credited with improving the Iranian economy after several years of decline as a result of international sanctions and economic mismanagement under the Presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In particular, the policies promoted by Rouhani reduced the inflation rate within Iran from 45% in 2013 to its current 12% and increased Iran’s economic growth rate from -4.1% to 3.7%. Despite some successful reform, the Iranian economy still remains on shaky ground due to the continuation of some international sanctions and because of its overall structure. In the realm of social policy, Rouhani supports continued liberalization within Iranian society and is a strong advocate for increased political freedom and gender equality.
Hassan Rouhani hopes to build upon his administration’s successes in a potential second term. Rouhani has pledged to continue his policy of free market economic reforms and has stated that the involvement of groups such as the Revolutionary Guards within the Iranian economy is a major factor behind its poor performance over the past few years. Rouhani has also questioned the effectiveness of governmental subsidies in improving the economy and instead feels that creating an environment of peace and security is the key to increasing economic confidence.
Hasan Rouhani has stated that the lifting of the remaining sanctions on Iran is a key goal of his second term and supports continued diplomacy will all nations. Rouhani pledges to improve personal freedom and the free access to information in addition to combating long-standing gender inequality. In a swipe at the conservative political factions within Iran, Rouhani has also stated that “We are here to tell pro-violence extremists that your era has come to an end” and that the hardliners “can no longer stand in the way of progress. “
A favorite of the conservative political factions, Ebrahim Raisi is running as a candidate of the Combatant Clergy Association political party. Raisi is currently the chairman of Astan Quds Razavi, which is a charitable organization based in the city of Mashad that manages the Imam Reza Shrine. Prior to his candidacy for President, Raisi was considered to be a favorite to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader. In addition to his current role, Raisi was previously Tehran city prosecutor from 1985-1994 and the Iranian Attorney General from 2014-2016.
With regards to economic policy, Ebrahim Raisi is running as a populist and as a defender of the poor and working class. Raisi supports Import-Substitution-Industrialization (ISI) as an effective way to both circumvent international sanctions and improve the domestic Iranian economy. Raisi also promised to triple the monthly state benefits as a way to combat political and economic corruption and foster higher levels of economic growth.
Ebrahim Raisi thus far has been relatively vague on the issue of foreign policy. When asked by reporters, Raisi stated that he will seek ties with every country except Israel. It is also widely speculated that Raisi will continue the current Iranian policy towards Syria and expand the already strong relationship that Iran has with Russia. Raisi is also a supporter of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action but has questioned its actual benefits. On social policy, Raisi takes a conservative position, arguing in favor of gender segregation and in support of the Islamization of Iranian universities as a way to combat Western intervention in the country.
A member of the Islamic Coalition political party, Mostafa Mir-Salim is the third Presidential candidate running. Mir-Salim was previously the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance (1994-97) under former President Rafsanjani and was the Iranian national police chief from 1979-80. Thus far, Mir-Salim has been somewhat vague in his policy positions. He supports building up diplomatic with neighboring countries such as Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Qatar and is a strong supporter of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, pledging to enforce it effectively. Mir-Salim also is critical of Rouhani’s handling of the Iranian economy and supports protectionist measures.
Overall, the candidates running in the Iranian Presidential election have a variety of different views covering all parts of the political spectrum. Based on current polling, it seems that the election is a toss-up at this point and that a run-off election will be necessary. In a run-off election, Rouhani will likely be victorious against Raisi with around 55% of the vote. Even though Raisi has the support of the more conservative and older voters, he is a relatively unexciting candidate and has little appeal to younger voters, who make up a majority of the Iranian electorate.