Iranians went to the polls on Thursday to elect their next president.
The results will be announced in three days following a manual count. If no candidate has received 50% of the votes, then the election will proceed into a second round to take place the Friday following the announcement of the results.
According to the Iranian Student Polling Agency, only 42% of the 59 million eligible voters will take part in the election, a sharp drop from the 73% observed in 2017 blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic and a general lack of enthusiasm.
Only seven candidates out of 592 prospective ones were approved by the Guardian Council and three have since dropped out. Forty women applied but none were approved by the Council which is made up of 12 members, half of whom senior clerics, and headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Candidates must respect certain conditions to be approved:
- They must belong to the Twelver branch of Shia Islam. That means that anyone who is not a Shiite — including Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews or even secular people — cannot run;
- They must have no connection with a foreign country and must not have lived or studied abroad. Are only allowed people who represented Iran such as in the foreign service;
- They must have no criminal record and have completed their military service unless exempted;
- They must be aged between 40 and 70.
The Guardian Council then looks into their education, commitment to Islam and knowledge of the Constitution.
The term of the Iranian presidency lasts four years and can be renewed only once.
Who are the candidates?
Front-runner A. Ebrahim Raisi, 60, is a cleric close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In 2016 he was appointed by Khamenei as head of Imam Reza Charity Foundation.
He could also potentially become the future Supreme leader.
In 2017 he lost the presidential elections against Hassan Rouhani, earning 15 million votes and was later appointed as the head of the country’s judiciary system.
Controversially, he was involved in the 1988 mass execution of thousands of political prisoners.
B. Abdolnasser Hemmati, 64, was head of Iran’s Central Bank under Rouhani and during the American sanctions after the Nuclear Deal crisis.
He has worked in private and governmental banks and also shortly served as the country’s ambassador to China.
He appointed his wife as a representative and top advisers in Iran’s elections and has a black belt in Karate — apparently important for public opinion.
He has pledged to build a better economy that would reduce poverty and to get Iran off the Financial Action Task Force — an intergovernmental money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.
Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, 50, is a surgeon and conservative politician. He has been a member of parliament since 2007 and currently serves as one of six Parliament’s chairmen
He has vowed to restore the country’s stock market — whose value halved over the past year — in the first three days in office.
D. Mohsen Rezaei, 66, is a former leader of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. He is currently the secretary of the Expediency Council which arbitrates disputes between Iran’s parliament and the Guardian Council.
He was already a candidate in several previous elections.
He currently features on Interpol’s ‘Red Notice’ list following a request by Argentina for his alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Center of Buenos Aires which he and the Iranian government have always denied.
He is also accused of mismanaging battles in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war. During the first presidential debate he threatened to imprison Hemmati.