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A Brief Outlook on Upcoming Presidential and Local Elections in Iran

A Brief Outlook on Upcoming Presidential and Local Elections in Iran

Iran’s presidential and municipal elections, scheduled for May 19, will be held with the familiar pattern of candidate disqualification seen in the past. Six men, including incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, will vie for the presidency out of 1636 individuals who registered as candidates. Some candidates might drop out in remaining days in favor of others, however.

Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the most famous candidate disqualified by the Guardian Council, an unelected body responsible for vetting candidates seeking public office. Mohammad Gharazi, who was actually allowed to run in 2013, was disqualified this year. Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist member of the Iranian parliament, and Alireza Zakani, a conservative former member of the parliament, were also barred by the Guardian Council. The Iranian Constitution bars women and religious minorities, including Sunni Muslims, from becoming president.


Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric and a former deputy to the head of the judiciary, is one of the six candidates running in this month’s election. Raisi is alleged to have participated as a judge in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners during which thousands of individuals held in Iranian prisons were executed after brief trials. Raisi has not denied involvement in the massacre. It should be noted that another individual implicated in the massacre is Mostafa Pourmohammadi, President Rouhani’s Minister of Justice.


Qualification for municipal elections is handled through a different process. Candidates in each district are first vetted by a local executive board. The decisions of these boards are subsequently approved by review committees comprised of members of the Iranian parliament from the province in which that municipality is located. Reports indicate that both conservatives and reformists have resorted to disqualifying candidates from the opposing faction. In the city of Tehran, where the reformists took all 30 seats in last year’s parliamentary election, several sitting council members were disqualified. Alireza Dabir, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and a sitting member of the City Council, was one of conservative members barred from running again. Abbas Jadidi, an Olympic silver medalist and a conservative member of the Tehran City Council, was initially barred from running but was later reinstated as a candidate. Morteza Talai, the former head of Tehran’s police department and a conservative, was also initially disqualified but reinstated later.


Another interesting development regarding candidates for the Tehran City Council was the initial qualification and subsequent disqualification of Abdollah Momeni, a reformist and a former political prisoner. Momeni, who was arrested and tortured in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election, discussed the issues surrounding his candidacy in an open letter. Momeni stated that while he was initially approved to stand as a candidate, the review board, controlled by reformists, was put under pressure by the security and intelligence apparatus to bar him from running for the Tehran City Council. His disqualification has dampened the hopes that dissidents may be allowed to participate in the political process in the near future. 


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Iran Election