Whom to favour this time? – On Friday, there will be presidential elections in Iran

With view to the upcoming presidential elections, Iran analysts are busy with several issues at the moment. What exactly do the various presidential candidates have to offer except their loyalty to Ali Khamenei? Who has the best chance to win? Will one of the candidates again be favoured by manipulating a sham election? Will there be a run-off?


Ali Akbar Velayati, one of six running for president of Iran - Two of the eight by the Guardian Council approved candidates have now withdrawn their candidacy. Mohamed Reza Aref, an assumed reformist candidate, announced his withdrawal to back the other assumed reformist Hassan Rohani, while the former Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad Adel from the triumvirate Velayati-Qalibaf-Haddad Adel left the scene without a clear preference for one of his two colleagues. Although the former Telecommunications Minister, Mohammad Gharazi, has not yet withdrawn his candidacy, he is not considered by any of the analysts as a serious competitor.


Saeed Jalili, from head to toe a loyal Basiji and follower of Khamenei is attracting votes with a kind of emergency program for restless and warlike times. Analysts are not quite sure whether he is Khamenei's favourite or just a test case to sense the atmosphere in the country, or whether his candidacy serves only to upgrade him as an international negotiator for the nuclear issue. His biggest supporter is the theologian and regime ideologue Mesbah Yazdi.

Ali Akbar Velayati has been assisting the supreme leader for many years as a trustful advisor on foreign policy. He is not popular with any leading opinion group in Iran. Despite certain favours of Ali Khamenei, analysts don’t expect he would make a big chance in genuine elections.

Mohsen Rezaei has often stood for presidency and moves skilled in the shark pool of the political elite of Iran, not by being silent but by always keeping his criticism of the occurred facts palatable for the Supreme Leader. He made his career within the Pasdaran. The radical ideologues forge Ammaryoun with Mehdi Tâeb and Said Ghâssemi has up to now bluntly rejected him. However suddenly there are rumours which suggest support for Rezaei from this Ammaryoun group.

Hassan Rohani knows his way in the nuclear program issues. During the time of Khatami's presidency, he led the negotiations on the nuclear program with the West. He is the only cleric who is competing in the election and is described as a reformer. The hope of the mild tuned within the conservative regime allies lies with him.

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf is currently the mayor of Tehran and projecting himself as a successful manager of a complicated city. In fact, he sprouts from the Revolutionary Guards and recently boasted to have ended without bloodshed but harshly the student protests in 2003. Khamenei has enough reasons not to have him proceed, although he could use him well. Qalibaf is not related to Khamenei; he knows Qalibaf not as well as Velayati or Jalili and is not sure if he can trust him. Qalibaf could turn out to be an even bigger troublemaker than Ahmadinejad. According to some sources, however, the Pasdaran would be standing behind Qalibaf, a plus point. He promises progress. Whatever that might mean.

And what about Ahmadinejad's hope in the person of Rahim Esfandiar Mashaie? According to a press release from Mashaie’s office, Mashaie asked the Supreme Leader by letter for admission to participate in the election. He has not yet received an answer.

Taking all this into account, some observers come to the following conclusion: if the elections would take place as a fair ballot count without manipulation, it could be a head to head race between Rohani and Qalibaf with Qalibaf being victorious in the end. The pattern is reminiscent of the first election in favour of Ahmadinejad against the experienced political fox Rafsanjani, who was not approved to run this time.

In terms of the Iranian politics, forecasts are usually not valid longer than two days; the elections are in three days. The possible second round is on Friday 21 June.