Iran regime will ensure hard-liner wins presidential election

Iran regime will ensure hard-liner wins presidential election

Iran regime will ensure hard-liner wins presidential election
A Hassan Rouhani supporter holds a poster bearing his image, as she celebrates his victory in the presidential election, Tehran, May 20, 2017. (Reuters)
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Iran’s 13th presidential election, scheduled for June, will be held at a critical moment for Tehran due to the regime’s nuclear defiance, the unprecedented level of isolation the regime is facing, the rising discontent domestically, and the US sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy and devalued its currency. These issues raise questions about whether the next president will be capable of addressing the country’s economic problems, the fury of Iranian citizens, and Tehran’s lowly regional and international standing.
The list of potential candidates includes former Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, ex-parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, current speaker Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Mohsen Rezaee and Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s judiciary. All these candidates have demonstrated strong loyalty to the supreme leader and Iran’s revolutionary principles, and their main objective is ensuring that the regime survives.
Although the regime attempts to show that it has vibrant and democratic elections, it is important to point out that all presidential candidates are carefully selected by the Guardian Council based on their loyalty to the revolutionary fundamentalists, particularly the supreme leader. As such, they do not represent ordinary citizens’ ideals or the younger generation.
Iran’s presidential race is, in reality, a closed competition among those who share fundamentalist principles, such as protecting velayat-e-faqih — the rule of religious clerics according to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Shiite theology — and the Islamist political structure. Their differences will only be in relation to minor policies.
The 12 unelected members of the Guardian Council, six of whom are directly appointed by the supreme leader, have a history of arbitrarily disqualifying candidates, particularly women and those who are perceived as disloyal to the principles of the state and the Islamic revolution. The authority to do so is implicitly granted by Iran’s constitution, which gives the Guardian Council the responsibility of “supervising” elections.
So who is likely to be the next president among these potential candidates? Anyone who has studied Iran’s political system since the 1979 revolution will be cognizant of the fact that it is wise not to jump the gun and predict who will win the presidential election. While US presidential campaigns and election processes unfold over a two-year period, Iran’s elections are only a two-month process.
Nevertheless, since the next president might be Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s last due to his old age and deteriorating health, he and the IRGC will likely push for a president who has deep connections to the IRGC and is a close confidant of the supreme leader. This will give the regime and the IRGC greater control of the government in case Khamenei dies.
However, Seyed Mohammed Sadr, a member of the Expediency Council, last month warned of the consequences of pushing for a specific candidate to be the next president. He pointed out, according to the Etemad newspaper: “If such a thing happens, it is a dangerous issue for the country and even a security risk, because if the presidential election is like the previous parliamentary elections, the legitimacy of the system will be questioned, and this will pave the way for foreign greed to create a series of conspiracies against the Islamic Republic.”

The presidential race is, in reality, a closed competition among those who share fundamentalist principles.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

In addition, the regime wants to project that it has legitimacy thanks to a high voter turnout. But this might not occur this year, since the people’s dissatisfaction with all factions of the regime’s political spectrum has grown. Many young Iranians and other ordinary people with whom I have talked deeply question the legitimacy of the election. Finding no hope in the vote, many Iranians deem it as illegitimate, superficial and a sham.
With regard to the prospects of the winner shaping Tehran’s foreign policy, it is crucial to note that this facet of Iranian politics will not be altered by the next president. That is because Iran’s policies toward the West, Israel, Syria and the Gulf states, as well as its nuclear enrichment, are closely guided by the supreme leader. However, the president does have the ability to help set the tone in regional and international circles.
The next president of Iran will fully support the regime’s revolutionary ideals, thus eliminating any hope of a change for the better within the country. Khamenei and the IRGC are attempting to orchestrate another sham presidential election, with a hard-line loyalist of the regime sure to emerge victorious.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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