Iran’s presidential election on Friday will determine who heads the country’s civilian government. Here’s what’s at stake:
Among the four candidates, the straightforward judicial leader Ibrahim Raisi appears to be the frontrunner based on polls linked to the state.
Abdolnaser Hemmati, the former head of Iran’s central bank, appears to represent the moderates in the race.
Also candidates are Mohsen Rezaei, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, and Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, current lawmaker.
In the country’s three debates, it seemed more like a two-man race, with candidates largely targeting Hemmati for being criticized for being part of the administration of current President Hassan Rouhani until recently.
Who doesn’t run?
Rouhani, whose government reached the Nuclear agreement 2015 with world powers, is limited to an additional four-year term.
The Guardians Council, Iran’s constitutional watchdog body that approves candidates, has also banned a number of prominent candidates from running this year.
They included Ali Larijani, a former conservative parliamentary president who in recent years has found himself allied with Rouhani.
Former radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also been banned. He still remains popular for his populist policies during his tenure despite his antagonism with the West.
While Larijani agreed to be blocked, Ahmadinejad urged his supporters not to participate in the vote.
Meanwhile, women remain barred from candidacy, as do those calling for radical change in the country’s government.
What’s at stake?
The Iranian president oversees the civilian branch of the country’s government.
The president sets domestic policy, which is important because Iran has faced years of crushing sanctions from the United States after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from it. Tehran nuclear deal in 2018.
These economic problems led to nationwide protests twice during Rohani’s tenure.
Iran has also faced a wave of new cases as part of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The presidency also sets the tone for how Iran interacts with the rest of the world.
However, the winning candidate will be under Iran’s Supreme Leader, who has the final say on all state matters.
What is the power of the supreme leader?
At the heart of the complex power-sharing Iranian government created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution is the Supreme Leader.
The Supreme Leader is also the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s military and the powerful Revolutionary Guards, a paramilitary force that also holds vast economic holdings across Iran.
An 88-member elected clerical committee called the Assembly of Experts appoints the supreme leader and can also dismiss one, although this has never happened.
Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei is 82, leading some analysts to suggest it could be the last election he is overseeing.
So is Iran a democracy?
Iran describes itself as an Islamic republic. It holds elections and has elected representatives who pass laws and rule on behalf of its people, although the supreme leader has the final say on all matters of state.
However, the Guardian Council banned most of Rouhani’s allies and reformists from standing in this election.
Those who led Iranian Green Movement after Ahmadinejad’s contested re-election in 2009, they also remain under house arrest.
Iran does not allow international observers to monitor its elections, which its interior ministry oversees.
Security forces reporting only to the Supreme Leader also regularly stop and hold closed-door trials for binationals, foreigners and those with ties to the West, using them as pawns in international negotiations.
Raisi, as head of the judiciary, faces international criticism for these arrests.