Iran’s Interior Ministry has issued the Approved Official List of eight Candidates for upcoming Presidential Election to be held on June 14. Sitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is out of race being constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term as President of Islamic Republic Iran.
Before we discuss the eight eligible “fortunate” candidates it will be important to mention here that Iran’s influential Guardian Council disqualified two notable candidates, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandyar Rahim Mishai, a close relative and ex-chief of staff of Ahmadinejad. Guardian Council is an unelected body controlled by religious conservatives appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
A moderate Rafsanjani’s disqualification is a major setback to Reformists. Veteran Rafsanjani, 79, critical of Ahmadinejad, who was President between 1989 and 1997 has been set apart by ultra-conservatives since Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election in 2009, aroused street protests, leading to a heavy crackdown and the arrest of hundreds of journalists and reformists. Ahmadinejad strongly backed Esfandyar Rahim Mishai as his political heir, but there were serious hindrances to take him to start line. Due to Ahmadinejad’s severe disputes with the ruling clerics, Mashai has been disqualified as a runner in Presidential race and political experts say it was expected because a Presidential candidate for Iran’s highest elected office is considered to be a loyal to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been irritated by challenges to his authority by Ahmadinejad and his allies.
US officials criticized the disqualifications of more than 700 candidates and said, “It appears that Iran’s unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified hundreds of potential candidates based on vague criteria.” But USA and rest of the World are nothing to do but to wait who is winner and what policies are formed by new comer about nuclear talks and other important regional affairs including confrontation with Israel or the U.S.
Common people were very excited on moderate Rafsanjani’s decision to again take part in election but his disqualification has turned the excitement into shock as about 78 other experienced potential candidates have also been eliminated and some less experienced candidates are part of approved list to contest in election. Candidacy of Women was already prohibited.
Let’s have a bird eye-view on the short-listed Presidential Candidates:
Ali Akbar Velayati:
One of the most popular conservative candidates Ali Akbar Velayati, 67, a physician is key advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on international affairs. He had been Foreign Minster of Iran.
Mohammed Baqr Qalibaf:
Another popular conservative and Mayor of Tehran, Pilot Mohammed Baqr Qalibaf, 51 is considered very close to Supreme Leader. He is also former Commander of the Revolutionary Guard during the Iran-Iraq war.
Hasan Rowhani, a British-educated cleric, 64 is a former nuclear negotiator, nuclear dossier and Khamenei’s representative at the Supreme National Security Council. He is known as a less experienced conservative Presidential Candidate.
Mohammad Reza Aref:
Mohammad Reza Aref, 61, a Liberal was former Vice President under reformist President Mohammad Khatami. He is a former Tehran University chancellor.
Mohsen Rezaei, 58, stood fourth in 2009 Election is a Former Chief Commander of the Revolutionary Guard. He is secretary of the Expediency Council, which mediates between the parliament and Guardian Council.
Saeed Jalili, 47, is Iran’s top hardliner nuclear negotiator since 2007. He began his career as a diplomat in 1991 and enjoys support of ultra-conservative cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. He is the youngest Presidential Candidate. Jalili speaks English and Arabic and has a doctorate in political science,
Gholam Ali Haddad Adel:
Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, 68, a well known conservative is currently a member of the Expediency Council. His daughter is married to Supreme Leader Khamenei’s son.
Mohammad Gharazi, 71, conservative, is ex-oil and telecommunications minister. He remained in parliament in the 1980s and `90s. He portrays himself as a steady-handed technocrat.
Two potential candidates Ali Akbar Velayati and Saeed Jalili enjoy the support of conservatives but who will be the final choice – actually depending on who wins the blessings of Supreme Leader.
Despite the main issues of Nuke talks and sanctions internationally the importance of this election is significant for Iranian people. Sanction hit Iran is in grip of sever economic turmoil. Observers say “This is not an election of hope and change, but hold on and see”. Reformists although disappointed but see this event as a trend of politics for next 10 years whether the country will go on same traditional dictatorial conservative style leaving no room for peaceful reforms or any new trend from voters will force hard-liners to give some space for social reforms and bring the country on the way to stability to economy and proper attention to common man and spend substantial resources to social sectors.