This May 19 Iranians go to the polls to decide which of the six candidates, approved by the Council of Guardians of Iran, will become the twelfth president of the country, in a particularly tense environment due to the economic crisis and armed conflicts across the region.
The six hopefuls have conducted their electoral campaigns centered on three key points, highlighted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: economic affairs, national pride and independence, and national security and stability.
Since the 1979 revolution, most of the presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been re-elected for a second term, and polls place current President 68-year-old Hassan Rouhani as the favorite to win.
Although according to polls the president enjoys widespread popular support, especially among young people and reformers, he still faces several outstanding tasks.
During his term, Rouhani reached a nuclear agreement with the West, which reduced the burden of sanctions against his country. However, several sanctions remain in place and part of the population does not believe that this agreement has been entirely effective.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Iran has experienced slight improvements in its economy. For example, according to the World Bank Group’s ease of doing business index, one of the most important factors for economic growth, the country’s rating improved from placing 152nd in 2013 to 120th in 2016.
Another achievement during the mandate of the eleventh Iranian president has been a 200% increase in the presence of women in leadership and management positions. However, the country is still facing poverty and a rising unemployment rate.
Meanwhile, hopeful Ebrahim Raisi, 57, enjoys great influence in Iran. He is the leader of the powerful Astan Quds Razavi Foundation, responsible for the holy shrine of Imam Reza, a Shia sanctuary.
The openly conservative Raisi campaign has focused on his determination to reduce unemployment, poverty, and fight against corruption, with the people as the epicenter of change.
“My government will not separate the people by erecting walls. We will only build walls between the economic looters and the rights of the people,” Raisi told a reporter when questioned regarding his opinion on U.S. foreign policy.
Another of the contenders, the current Mayor of Teheran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, is running for president for the third time.
During his campaign, Ghalibaf has argued that tgovernment has the duty to establish well-being and security for all, regardless of ethnicity or faith. He also described the formation of an Islamic government as a spiritual duty, as well as an economic duty, implying material development for all.
Also a conservative, in his role as mayor of the country’s most important city, Bagher Ghalibaf has been accused of corruption by the City Council of Teheran.
Major political analysts agree that Ghalibaf has no possibility of wining, and it is expected that he will step aside and pledge his support to Ebrahim Raisi.
Current First Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, finds himself in a similar situation. Jahangiri is the main advocate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (international agreement signed in 2015 in which Iran commits to a making a series of cuts to its nuclear program) as a way to ensure the West, and especially the United States, lifts its sanctions against the country.
Despite being one of Iran’s leading reformist politicians, with an agenda open to the civil rights of women and children, it is expected that at some point he will join efforts to ensure the re-election of Rouhani.
Also a candidate is former Culture minister (1992-1997) Mostafa Mirsalim, the first to announce he was running in the upcoming elections.
Aged 70, Mirsalim has focused his campaign on the necessary rescue of the economy through the recovery of taxes.
Finally, reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba, who served as vice president to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (who passed away in January), is running for the second time.
Hashemitaba’s campaign has centered on the idea that the main mistakes made in the economic and social management of the country were related to the sanctions imposed by the international community. However, he has not offered a specific action plan as to what he would do if elected as the twelfth president of Iran.
“Almost 56 million Iranians are expected to go to the polls. Iranians living in other countries may also exercise their right to vote by presenting their passports,” stated Ali Asghar Ahmadi, director of the Interior Ministry’s Elections Committee, during a press conference.
As demonstrated in various votes held in different parts of the world last year, politics is never a known. According to polls, the plebiscite on the peace agreement in Colombia should have been won by the Yes camp, Trump should not have been elected U.S. president, and the UK’s Brexit should not be happening.
No one can be absolutely sure as to what will happen during the Iranian presidential elections.
While the media have practically decided that the winner will be Rouhani, the ballot box will have the last word.