Who determines the candidates in Iran's elections

How anti-western is the course going to be? : Hardliners in Iran are rushing to power

Their influence is already very great. But now the hardliners in Iran are preparing to conquer all of the important switching points in the state. The advocates of an anti-Western course had already won the general election last year - now they are also favorites for the presidential election on June 18.

The registration period for applicants begins on this Tuesday. Revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei, who can exclude unpleasant candidates, plays a key role in this. Why is this choice particularly important?

President Hassan Ruhani, one of the reformers, is no longer allowed to run after two terms in office - leaving behind a crisis-ridden country with a demoralized electorate. Ruhani's government promised the Iranians more prosperity after the 2015 nuclear deal.

But instead, the US under Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on the country. The economy collapsed and millions became impoverished. Corruption and mismanagement as well as the pandemic have exacerbated the problems. At the turn of 2017/2018 and 2019, the regime brutally suppressed nationwide protests. Many Iranians consider the theocracy to have failed.

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The new president - women are not allowed - has a difficult domestic legacy. He will also have to help decide how the regime deals with the West. The talks about a revival of the nuclear agreement are entering the decisive phase shortly before the election.

In addition, a decision of epoch-making importance for the Islamic Republic could be pending in the next four years: the country may have to find a successor to Khamenei, the most powerful man in the country. The revolutionary leader is 82 years old and is considered sick. This is another reason why the head of state will pay close attention to who goes into the race.

The candidate selection

Starting Tuesday, presidential candidates have five days to register as candidates. The twelve-member Guardian Council - a conservative body made up of Khamenei - decides which applicants will be admitted at all. So much depends on Khamenei's goodwill. Good contacts with Mojtaba Chamenei, a son of the revolutionary leader, are also helpful. Because he is one of the most influential advisors to his father.

The applicants' chances

Hardliners from the ranks of the militarily, politically and economically powerful Revolutionary Guard are the favorites. They include ex-Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and President of Parliament Mohammad Baker Kalibaf. The only 40-year-old ex-guardsman Saeed Mohammad sees opportunities.

Justice chief Ebrahim Raisi is also one of the favorites. However, it is particularly controversial because of its involvement in the mass execution of 5,000 prisoners in 1988. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also wants to run. However, he has made himself unpopular with Khamenei.

Hope bearers of the reformers

It looks bad for the moderate camp. So far, no representative of the reformers has made his candidacy public. However, some names are circulating. For example, there is Mohammad Chatami.

The fact that the ex-president takes office is more of wishful thinking. In 2009 he supported the massive anti-fraud protests that led to Ahmadinejad's presidency. Chatami fell out of favor a long time ago and is not allowed to give interviews or appear in public.

The candidacy of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a loyal companion of Ruhani and an advocate of the nuclear agreement, would be a little more promising. However, the experienced chief diplomat has stated several times that he does not want to run because obstacles have always been put in his way - a clear swipe at the radical forces within the regime.

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And there is something else that speaks against Sarif from the leadership's point of view: In a leaked conversation, he dared to criticize the military's influence on politics. His country sacrificed diplomacy in favor of the "battlefield". The Guardian Council is unlikely to approve of his candidacy because of these frank words.

The power of the hardliners

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants to prevent a new disaster for the leadership after the historically low turnout in the parliamentary elections last year. Because 40 to 50 percent of Iranians do not want to vote, according to surveys, the revolutionary leader could allow a strong candidate from the reformers to increase voter turnout, says Iran expert Ali Fathollah-Nejad.

Fathollah-Nejad, a political scientist at the Free University of Berlin and author of a soon-to-be-published book on Iranian foreign policy, also believes that a campaign by possible presidential candidates on social media should arouse interest in the election.

According to Fathollah-Nejad, a Revolutionary Guard in the presidency would have more political leeway than a representative of the moderate camp. A guardsman as president could at least theoretically try to alleviate the economic and social crisis in the country with populist measures, for example by financing social aid with money from the economic empire of the paramilitary.

A president from the reformist camp would be denied access to these sources of money.

And so Ruhani warns against an open takeover of power by the military. “The task of the armed forces is certainly not just of a military nature. But it is also not their job to interfere in politics, ”said the current president recently. As with the regular army, it is the task of the Revolutionary Guards to defend the country's borders - and to serve the government.

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