Iran’s strict electoral principles and restrictions allowed only 8 of the 686 candidates to run for the elections replacing current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The eight presidential candidates of Iran are religious personalities with political interest, having an outstanding moral as per the judgement of the Guardian Council, and sufficient (that is, total) loyalty to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Reformist: Aref
One of the candidates is Mohammad-Reza Aref, first vice president under former president Mohammad Khatami, and now member of the advisory body to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Born in 1951 in Yazd, he has been active in political and academic circles in Iran and holds a PhD from Stanford University. From 1997 to 2005, he held different positions: he was Minister of Information and Communications Technology, and Vice President, and is considered to be a reformist politician. Aref is a supporter of former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani, yet when the Guardian Council rejected Rasfanjani’s candidacy, Aref did not comment on the decision. In case he wins, Aref said he would focus on improving Iran’s international relations and deepening interactions, while retaining the current line of politics.
The 2+1 conservative block: Qalibaf, Velayati and Haddad Adel
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, another candidate, was born in 1961 in Tehran was holds a PhD in political geography. He is the current mayor of Tehran since 2005 and is part of the conservative coalition along with Velayati and Haddad Adel, two other candidates. Part of the Revolutionary Guard, he served in the Iran-Iraq war and was trained as a pilot in the Air Force, serving for 3 years as a commander. Qalibaf is politically opposed to Khatami’s line and represents a hard-liner politics, sustained by his participation in suppressing the 1999 student protests.
Former foreign minister for 16 years, Ali Akbar Velayati was born in 1945 and holds a degree of medicine. He operates now as the senior advisor on international affairs to Khamenei. During his ministry, he was important in shaping the hard-liner politics toward the West. He serves in the major advisory body to the Ayatollah since 1988 when it was founded. In the 2005 elections, Velayati withdrew in support for Rafsanjani, but he is equally close to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, born in 1945 and holds a PhD in Philosophy and an MA in physics. He is the top advisor to Ali Khamenei, and his loyalty cannot be better demonstrated than by the fact that his daughter is married to one of Khamenei’s sons. He is also the head of the conservative faction and fulfilled the position of the speaker of the parliament from 2005 to 2008. Haddad Adel is one of Khamanei’s major confidential, and held some major governmental positions in the past, but was accused several times of cruelty and disregard for human rights in defense of the regime.
The lonely conservative: Rezaei
Another conservative outside this triangle is Mohsen Rezaei, holding a PhD in economics. He is the former head of the Revolutionary Guard from 1981 to 1997, and was also the secretary of the Supreme Leader’s advisory body. Rezaei is close to Khamenei but was always critical of Ahmadinejad’s policies, especially with regard to economics. He urges further nuclear talks with the West, but also emphasises that it should be in Iran’s interest, and he aims at the removal of economic sanctions. He ran for elections in 2009 but lost, and so did he when he ran for a parliamentary seat representing Tehran in 2001.
The cleric: Rowhani
Born in 1948, Hassan Rowhani is a Shiite cleric with a PhD from the Glasgow Caledonian University. He served as the secretary of the Supreme National Security council for over 16 years and now operates as the head of a Tehran-based think tank on strategic research. He is equally member of the advisory body to Khamenei and member of the Assembly Experts, the only body that holds the right to remove and elect a Supreme Leader. He also conducted the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and it was he who agreed to halt the uranium enrichment – which was continued anyway once he was replaced in the post. He is close to Rasfanjani, which may not fare well for him on the elections, especially given his post in the Assembly of Experts.
The Moderate: Gharazi
Mohammad Gharazi, born in 1941, holds a degree in engineering. He is a less well-known political figure and is considered moderate, never run for presidential elections before. During the 80s he served as a minister for oil and telecommunications, and was a governor as well, and served in the Revolutionary Guard. He said his priority would be to deal with the high inflation first of all. His lack of money to spend on his campaign and is background figure is an obstacle for his success, but he tries to lean on the worsening situation of the poor, putting himself in the light of an economic saviour who would turn the tide of Iran’s sinking economics.
The hard-liner: Jalili
Last but not least, Saeed Jalili also runs for the presidential elections. Born in 1965 and having a PhD in political science, he is currently the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and also serves as the nuclear negotiator of Iran. In this post, he takes a very different stance than Rowhani: while his predecessor was more smooth, Jalili is known for his anti-Western stand in politics and strict religious views, that he sees as the basis for progress. Jalili held many posts in the Foreign Ministry and was a president of the Inspection Office as well.