Iran’s tough judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, has announced that he is running in the June 18 presidential election.
Once criticized for his alleged involvement in mass executions of political prisoners in the 1980s, Raisi has transformed himself into a populist by campaigning against corruption, talking to ordinary people about their lawsuits and traveling to disadvantaged provinces during the pandemic.
Raisi is seen as the lead candidate, but will be challenged by reformist politicians on a list to be vetted by the Guardian Council, the tough constitutional watchdog.
Before officially registering his nomination with the Interior Ministry on Saturday, the 60-year-old cleric said incremental changes in the country had not helped it achieve its goal of becoming a strong Iran.
“The result of the election should be real development to bring hope and enthusiasm back to society,” he said. “In the near future, the bitter feelings of injustice. . . will turn into the sweet and desirable taste of execution of righteousness. ”
President Hassan Rouhani, a centrist politician who gambled on reaching an agreement on the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, will step down after two terms this summer.
Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the nuclear deal in 2018 and impose heavy sanctions on Iran was a huge blow to Rouhani and the reformist forces who had backed his candidacy.
Reformers need the support of Iranians who backed Rouhani in his landslide victory over Raisi in 2017, but who have said they will never vote again in protest against the economic hardship caused by US sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Many Iranians believe that having a hardliner like Raisi as president wouldn’t make any real difference as pro and anti-reform politicians are all the same.
First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri is the foremost reformist candidate. He acknowledged on Saturday that public confidence in the ruling institutions had waned and that many people no longer believed their vote could change anything.
He warned Iranians that the situation in the country was alarming and could get worse if they remained passive.
“I understand that many compatriots are angry about maladministration and have no hope of the election,” he said. “We have no choice but to revive the ballot boxes.”
As a member of the outgoing government, Jahangiri is held responsible by many Iranians, including business people, for their suffering and for Rouhani’s poor economic record.
Ali Larijani, a 63-year-old centrist politician and former parliament speaker, is another top candidate who signed up on Saturday morning. He is best known internationally as Iran’s former nuclear negotiator.
Larijani supported the Iranian president in previous nuclear negotiations and his role in the legislative body was crucial. By opposing hard forces, he enabled Rouhani to reach an agreement with the world powers.
The biggest challenge in the elections is the expected low turnout, which would be seen as a rejection of the Islamic republic.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that his first priority was a high turnout that would help increase the country’s “ deterrent power, give it security and credibility. ”
Raisi, widely believed to be backed by the elite Revolutionary Guards, could benefit from a reform-minded voter boycott as he appeals to lower-middle-class Iranians who tend to vote in all elections and usually prefer populist politicians.
He is also close to the supreme leader and, as a supreme judicial officer, is identified with a focus on promoting domestic production rather than better international relations.
Raisi nevertheless backed the nuclear talks in Vienna, saying he would pursue “smart and innovative diplomacy” and that he would “not waste a second lifting the brutal sanctions” if elected.
The Guardian Council will announce the names of those allowed to run in the elections ahead of the three-week campaign starting on May 28.
Dozens of politicians and military figures have registered. Most are expected to be excluded.
The list includes Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former political prisoner who broke social and political taboos by demanding an end to mandatory Islamic coverage for women and challenging the supreme leader’s absolute authority.
Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, the former hardline president of Iran who remains popular among the poor but runs counter to the regime, registered his candidacy on Wednesday. He said he would not vote for any candidate if excluded from participation, a move that could weaken support for Raisi among the poorest segments of society.
Larijani said Saturday “the economic field is neither a garrison nor a court to be run with warrants,” clearly targeting members of the guards, as well as Raisi and his anti-corruption campaign. “It is naive to think that a few populist movements can help solve it [Iran’s] issues.”