Due to the unexpected death of former President Ebrahim Raisi (1960-2024) in a helicopter crash on May 19, the Islamic Republic of Iran will hold presidential elections on June 28. Out of the eighty candidates who registered to run, the Guardian Council, a vetting body, approved only six presidential candidates. Five of these candidates are hardliners, with three already on various Western sanction lists, and one is a reformist. The election may proceed to a second round if the reformist candidate can successfully mobilize a significant portion of the discontented populace.

Saeed Jalili

Saeed Jalili (born 1965) is the son of a high school teacher. At 21, he lost his right leg in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and served as a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). He joined the foreign ministry in 1987, eventually becoming the deputy head of the Europe and America Bureau. In 2002, he earned a doctorate in political science from Imam Sadiq University, a training ground for the political elite of the Islamic Republic. Jalili has held several significant positions, including being a member of the Office of the Supreme Leader (2000-2007), Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator (2007-2013). Known for lacking a charismatic personality, Jalili’s tirades during the nuclear talks significantly contributed to the impasse in the negotiations. He has also served since 2013 on the Expediency Council, a body comprising three dozen senior regime members that is the final arbiter between the Guardian Council and the parliament. In the 2013 presidential elections, he finished third with 11 percent of the vote. Disputes with other conservatives led him to sit out the 2017 presidential race. Although he was one of the seven candidates approved by the Guardian Council for the 2021 presidential election, he withdrew two days before the election in favor of Raisi, the eventual winner. Jalili is reportedly close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his brother, Vahid Jalili, has served as the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization (IRIB) chief for cultural affairs and policy evolution.

Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf

Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf (born 1961) has held several prominent positions in Iran, including commander of Khatam al-Anbia construction headquarters (1994-1997), commander of the IRGC air force (1997-2000), chief of law enforcement forces (2000-2005), mayor of Tehran (2005-2017), member of the Expediency Council (2017-present), and speaker of parliament (2020-present). The son of a baker, Ghalibaf joined the IRGC at 19, trained as a pilot, became a brigadier general, lost a brother in the Iran-Iraq War, and earned a doctorate in geography. In July 1999, he played a significant role in suppressing the student uprising in Tehran and contributed to drafting a threatening ultimatum letter. This letter, signed by 24 high-ranking IRGC commanders, was addressed to President Mohammad Khatami, demanding a decisive response to the protests. Accusations of financial impropriety have followed him from his tenure as Tehran’s longest-serving mayor. Ghalibaf ran for president in the 2005 elections, finishing fourth with 14 percent of the vote. In the 2013 election, he was the first runner-up with 16.5 percent of the votes. In the 2017 presidential election, he was approved by the Guardian Council as one of the six candidates positively vetted but withdrew a few days before election day in favor of Raisi. For the upcoming 2024 presidential election, Ghalibaf has hired Ali Nikzad, who managed Raisi’s 2017 and successful 2021 campaigns, as his campaign manager. Many in Iran believe that the 2024 presidential election is Ghalibaf’s to lose, given his extensive political experience.

Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi

Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi (born 1971) was born in Khorasan Razavi province, which is also the birthplace of Ayatollah Khamenei. He hails from a politically prominent family, with brothers and cousins who have served as members of parliament or ministers. He was wounded in the Iran-Iraq War and became an ear, nose, and throat surgeon in 2002. Ghazizadeh Hashemi has also been a faculty member and university rector and served as a four-term member of parliament (2008-2021). In the 2021 presidential election, he finished fourth with 3.5 percent of the vote. President-elect Raisi appointed him Vice President and Head of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs (2021-2024). Ghazizadeh Hashemi is the youngest of the six candidates competing.

Masoud Pezeshkiyan

Masoud Pezeshkiyan (born 1954) is the oldest of the six candidates at 70 years of age. Born into a civil servant family in West Azerbaijan, he is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War. Pezeshkiyan trained as a heart surgeon at Tabriz and Tehran universities and has held several prominent positions. He was the dean of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences (1994-2000), deputy health minister (2000-2001), minister of health under reformist president Mohammad Khatami (2001-2005), a member of the High Council for Cultural Revolution, and a five-term member of parliament (2008-present), also serving as its deputy speaker for one term. Pezeshkiyan registered to run in the 2013 presidential election but withdrew from the race. In 2021, the Guardian Council disqualified him from running in the presidential election. As the only Azeri in the race and the candidate closest to the reformist-moderate camp, Pezeshkiyan has the potential to garner substantial votes and finish strongly.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi

Mostafa Pourmohammadi (born 1960) is the only clerical candidate among the six and the second oldest (64). Son of a tailor, he underwent theological training at the Qom Seminary and became a revolutionary prosecutor at the age of twenty. During his tenure as head of the counterintelligence directorate of the ministry of intelligence and its representative in the notorious Evin Pison (1987-1990), Pourmohammadi was a member of a committee nicknamed the “death committee” that oversaw the extrajudicial execution of thousands of political prisoners following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s edict in 1988, which became known as the 1988 massacre. He was head of the social-political bureau in the Office of the Supreme Leader (2002-2005), interior minister (2005-2008), head of the state general inspectorate organization (2008-2013), and justice minister (2013-2017). Pourmohammadi has been the secretary-general of the conservative Society of Combatant Clergy since 2018. He declared his candidacy for the 2013 presidential election but did not actually run. He was disqualified by the Guardian Council from running in the 2015 elections for the Assembly of Experts.

Alireza Zakani

Alireza Zakani (born 1965) is the son of an athlete and wrestling referee from Tehran province. He joined the Iran-Iraq War at the age of 15, serving for sixty-two months, and sustained injuries in battle. Zakani earned his MD from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 1997 and trained in nuclear medicine there. He has held several significant roles, including nationwide director of the student Basij (affiliated with the IRGC), proprietor of the conservative website Jahan News, and secretary-general of the conservative Jameyat-e Rahpoyan-e Enqelab Islami (Alliance of the Wayfarers of the Islamic Revolution) formed in 2008. Zakani served as a four-term member of parliament (2004-2016; 2020-2021) and is currently the mayor of Tehran (2021-present). Although disqualified from running in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections, he was among the final seven candidates approved for the 2021 presidential election. However, he withdrew a few days before the election in support of Raisi.

Source » atlanticcouncil