Iran has a history of human rights abuses, regional hostility as exemplified in the Syrian conflict, and dangerous nuclear ambitions. This makes its elections a major concern for the United States and its allies.
The West is rightly worried that if the Shiite-back Iranian militia successfully rescues Assad’s Syrian regime, then Iran’s regional dominance will extend from Tehran to the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Iran’s governmental system is a theocracy-democracy hybrid, with power unevenly shared between the President and the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Popular sovereignty is secondary to religious rule.
Unlike the President, the Supreme Leader has the power to appoint individuals to military, governmental, and judicial posts. Khamenei controls the armed forces and has the power to dismiss the President in the event the Guardian Council votes him incompetent.
The Guardian Council arbitrated the vetting process for candidates to replace President Ahmadinejad, who hit his eight-year term limit. Presidential candidates must adhere to Islam, believe in God, be loyal to the Constitution, and be older than 21. Thirty female candidates were promptly disqualified on constitutional grounds.
The election was more tightly controlled than in previous years. Each candidate received 405 minutes on public TV and 285 minutes on public radio, including a TV appearance for three live debates.
Furthermore, there is more suppression of public opinion. The 2009 elections prompted the dissident “Green Movement,” inciting protests and demonstrations. In an effort to avoid a similar reaction, Iran has been targeting dissidents and restricting media coverage. A majority of visa applications from foreign news organizations have been ignored, The Guardian reports.
According to the Heritage Foundation, there are about 2,600 “prisoners of conscience” held in Iranian jails today. Moreover, the two reformist candidates who led the “Green Movement” disputing the 2009 election result are under house arrest.
Candidates for Friday’s election include four conservative hardliners and Khamenei loyalists, one former oil minister who claims he is independent, and moderate cleric Hassan Rohani.
Hardliners include Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Khamenei’s foreign affairs advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaie, and nuclear negotiator Saed Jalili. None of the reformist candidates made it through the vetting process, which sparked criticism from Western media outlets.
Jalili served as Iran’s obstinate nuclear negotiator. He is believe to be favored by hardliners, and has the support of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The fact that there are still four hardliners in the race suggests that Khamenei hasn’t given his support to any candidate.
Reformers have placed support behind Rohani, who has vowed to improve Iran’s foreign relations and has criticized the government’s emphasis on security. Former president Rafsanjani has also endorsed Rohani.
According to Iranian election tracking polls, Qalibaf holds the lead with Jalili and Rezaie in second and third place.
The first round of presidential elections will be held this Friday. If no candidate receives a majority vote, a runoff will be held on June 21st.
Yet, the election is unlikely to bring policy change, given the relative uniformity of the six remaining candidates and the superior influence of the Supreme Leader in Iran’s Islamic Republic.
Notice to Readers: The American Spectator and Spectator World are marks used by independent publishing companies that are not affiliated in any way. If you are looking for The Spectator World please click on the following link: https://thespectator.com/world.