Independent candidate Mohammad Gharazi stated in an interview that if elected, he would reduce inflation to zero. Inflation has long been a problem for the Iranian economy, due to sanctions and economic mismanagement. When asked how he would achieve this, Gharazi said that he would “deprive the rent-seekers of political power; the political, economic and nefarious rent-seekers must be pushed back so that the people can take their place, and this is a very simple step”. Gharazi was previously a surprise candidate in the 2013 election who made similar claims then as now.
News and Analysis
Prominent female candidate, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, told Hamshahri that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had asked her to run on his ticket as his Vice-President, but she had refused because of the events of the 2009 Election, particularly as Ahmadinejad had repeatedly insulted her father, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, during that period. Hashemi said that “people might change, but if Mr. Ahmadinejad had changed, he should have first apologized” before approaching her.
Esteemed political scientist, Prof Sadegh Zibakalam of the University of Tehran, outlined his analysis on the four main Principalist candidates: Ebrahim Raisi, Mohsen Rezaei, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf and Saeed Jalili. Zibakalam argued that Raisi would be a clear favourite as he is the candidate most likely to win at this stage, however it is not clear if he will accept an invitation from the two prominent Princpalist organisations, the Coalition Council and the Unity Council, to run. In Zibakalam’s view, the Principalist choice is between Raisi and Qalibaf at the moment, and other candidates like Saeed Mohammad, Ali Nikzad, Ezzatollah Zarghami and Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh, stand no chance of being supported by the Principalist bloc. For Saeed Mohammad, the problem is that he is too much like a young Ahmadinejad, and the Principalist camp of 2021 is not going to make the same choice as the did in 2005. However, Zibakalam added that if Raisi does not run, Saeed Mohammad would still pose a threat to whomever the Princpalists chose, effectively splitting the conservative vote.
Dr Abdullah Haji Sadeghi, who represents the #SupremeLeader in the IRGC, today said that “the armed forces do not enter politics in any way” and the task of the IRGC was to protect the revolution and the Islamic system, and make our enemies of aware of that”. In what is clearly an attack on #SaeedMohammad, Sadeghi singled out Commander Javani for praise. Javani recently accused Mohammad of being fired from the IRGC for bringing the corps into disrepute. These statements were published in Fars, an IRGC linked newspaper that has so far been hostile to Saeed Mohammad.
Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, yesterday announced that he was resigning from the Presidium of the Parliament to run for President. The Presidium is a 12-person body of parliamentary members elected annually by their peers to manage parliamentary business. Amirabadi is a former officer in the IRGC and a prominent Principalist.
Independent candidate and economist Hassan Sobhani stated today that while he had been against subsidies in the past, he was also opposed to eliminating them. However, Sobhani said it was irresponsible how some candidates made promises of subsidies to win the popular vote: “the people’s economic fragility should not be abused in order to achieve the power”. The government has historically subsidised many daily items, such as bread and fuel, and the removal of these subsidies has caused violent unrest, most recently in late 2019. Sobhani’s comments can be interpreted as a swipe at other candidates, notably election favourite Ebrahim Raisi, who in 2017 promised an increase in subsidies as part of his election campaign.
Laleh Eftekhari, a former member of Parliament and member of the Women’s Advisory Council in the Principalist Unity Council, yesterday stated that among Iranian women, Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi had the qualifications to be President, having served in the cabinet previously but that “she herself must be willing to take this step” before Principalists would consider supporting her candidacy. In the same interview, Eftekhari expressed support for Ebrahim Raisi as a unifying candidate.
Referring to an assassination attempt made against him last month in Lebanon, Rostam Ghasemi said that “if I was afraid of assassination, I would not have worked on the front lines for the Axis of Resistance for 7 years”, referring to Iran’s alliance with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. Ghasemi emphasised that knowledge of the world outside of Iran was important for a President, and therefore he was appropriately experienced.
Hassan Khomeini stated today that the Supreme Leader had asked him not to run for President, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency. The grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini said that he had been encouraged by many Iranians who consider him the only one able to unite the country, but he had waited until he had spoken to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, about the issue. Khomeini that Khamenei addressed him as his son, and said it was not appropriate for him to run at this time.
Abdol-Reza Davari, a journalist and former insider to Ahmadinejad’s administration, has turned on Ahmadinejad in recent years and today gave an outline of some of the former President’s behaviour which he deemed detrimental to the country. In an interview, he stated that the environment in Ahmadinejad’s inner circle was cult like, with no criticism allowed of the President, and that Ahmadinejad believed that the Islamic Republic would soon collapse, and he would be the Yeltsin of Iran. Davari also commented on Ahmadinejad’s “Mahdism”, where he sought to create the impression that he had a special relationship with the Mahdi as a strategy to undermine the religious authority of the Supreme Leader and the ideology of velayat-e faqih.
Tejarat published an analysis on the possibility of women candidates in this election. In previous elections, women have been able to nominate but have never been approved, partially due to the wording of the Constitutional law on the criteria for President, the meaning of which is in dispute. Last year, a spokesperson for the Guardian Council, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, said that women were not excluded by law, although it has been unclear whether this was his personal opinion or that of the Guardian Council. So far, two women, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani and Sara Fadaei, both academics, have announced their candidacy, but the analysis also speculated that several other women might nominate. These include Elham Aminzadeh (former Vice President for Legal Affairs), Masoumeh Ebtekar (Vice President for Women and Families), Shahindokht Molaverdi (former Rouhani cabinet member), Zahra Nejad-Bahram (Tehran city councillor), and Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi (former Ahmadinejad cabinet minister). Faezeh Hashemi is the most prominent to nominate so far, although she does not expect to be approved: “Since I have a prison record, and am facing another case and a sentence, I will definitely be disqualified. But since I believe in women registering for elections, I will do so symbolically”.
Conservative candidate Rostam Ghasemi told Tasnim that if elected he would be a President for all Iranians, not just his supporters. Ghasemi also reiterated his slogan regarding candidates who lack experience in the Executive Branch of government: “If you have never sailed, how can you manage the ship of the Iranian economy?” Ghasemi also played down his connections to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stating that he expects the former president to be a candidate, and added that he had along with other “military candidates” about not destroying each other’s reputations.
A spokesperson from within Iran’s electoral body announced that the registration of candidates will continue to be in person despite much of the country being under COVID restrictions. However, he added that the Ministry of Interior was making all the necessary arrangements to conform with health protocols. The registration for Presidential candidature opens on May 11 and closes on May 15. The last day of registration of candidates is usually hectic, with many high-profile figures waiting until the very last minute to reveal their intention to run.
The Director of Security at the Khorasan Theological Seminary, one of the most important centres of religious education in Iran, has reminded staff and students that no political campaigning is allowed in the institution. This means no placards, posters or slogans in support of any candidate, and no other forms of campaigning on campus. The Khorasan Theological Seminary is based near the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, and is organised around the philosophy of maktab-e tafkik (Separation School) which advocates a strict separation of theological studies from secular philosophy.
Effat Marashi, the widow of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the mother of female candidate Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, shares her thoughts on the prospects of Iranian woman becoming President. In a veiled challenge to the Guardian Council, which has always disqualified female candidates, she stated, “if there is a woman who has the power to do this important job, she has the right to become President and no one can take that right away from her”. When asked if she thought a woman could run the country, Marashi swiftly replied “There is nothing that women can’t do”.
Laya Joneydi, the Vice President for Legal Affairs, told ISNA that the law does not exclude women, and that anyone who argues otherwise, including in the Guardian Council, needs to provide evidence to support their view. The dispute centres on Article 115 of the Constitution, which outlines the criteria for the President. The article uses the word “rajol”, an Arabic word for man; some argue that this word excludes women, while others interpret it to mean “humanity”, thereby including women. Joneydi, a senior lawyer, argues for the latter view, although she herself has no intention to run for President.
In a speech in Kerman, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decried the ownership of land and resources were out of most Iranian’s possession. Ruminating on the God-given nature of Iran’s wealth, Ahmadinejad said that Godless tyrants (taghut-ha) have been keeping Iranian people in a low level of development. The term “taghut” has a religious connotation and was used by Ayatollah Khomeini against his enemies. Ahmadinejad’s use was ambiguous, seemingly directed at the United States but also open to interpretation to mean “internal tyrants”. Ahmadinejad has been traversing the country, having appeared at events in Tehran, Lorestan and Kerman this past week, and continues to campaign while many cities are put into in lockdown.
Hossein Dehghan, a former IRGC Brigadier-General and advisor to the Supreme Leader, today weighed into the debate about IRGC candidates, stating that a person with an IRGC background is not a military candidate. Dehghan’s reasoning is that although the IRGC is a military corps, it is essentially a political organisation and its members are political actors upon enlistment whose service is “never independent of the social, political and economic aspects of the country…[therefore] they never enter the political arena from a military base as they have never been absent from the political scene”.
Hojatoleslam Hossein Ebrahimi, a member of the Combatant Clergy Association, criticised the number of candidates running in the election, stating that many of them were not qualified and would not be approved for candidacy and that they were wasting the Iranian people’s time.
Read more on Khabaroline
In his first remarks since his controversial appearance on Clubhouse on Wednesday, Ali Motahari stated that out of a nearly three hours discussion, only five minutes had been torn apart by the media. He added that “I will not be strict on the hijab if elected” contrary to what was being reported. He also took a swipe at Mohammad-Javad Zarif, saying that he was suited for the Foreign Ministry and “does not have the skin” to be President.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Jamal Aref, in a conference with provincial governors, stated that the Ministry’s planning for the elections was focused on promoting the political process and encouraging participation. The Ministry of Interior, which also controls the police and internal security, is responsible for running elections, counts all votes and confirms results, as there is no electoral body in Iran that is legally independent from the state. Aref’s comments were in the context of the Presidential election and local council elections, which will take place on the same day
In an appearance on Clubhouse, candidate Ali Motahari commented on women’s rights, polygamy, veiling and sexuality. On the issue of hijab, Motahari stated “I do not see the hijab as a choice, and I do not believe in freedom for it [being a choice]. I do not consider being half-naked to be a human freedom, and I consider it an instinctive animal freedom.” On male sexuality, he added, “It is good that our youth are aroused by seeing the hand of a woman. Now in Europe, they [youth] have a problem with this issue, they are not aroused. Men are not aroused, and women turn to African men”. On the campaign trail, it is likely that Motahari, who often makes controversial remarks, set out to get attention through his comments.
Mohammad-Esmail Kowsari, a senior member of the IRGC and advisor to the commander-in-chief, denied that there was a dispute within the Corps over Saeed Mohammad’s candidacy. In reference to conflicting statements made on the issue by prominent IRGC members over the last few days, Kowsari stated that former IRGC members were not barred from running for President, but that there are strict laws, including religious rulings from Ayatollah Khomeini, which would be applied by the Guardian Council when vetting nominees. In other words, Kowsari argued that the matter should be left to the formal process and public disagreements incorrectly give the impression that there is division within the IRGC.
In a sign pf the blackening of reputations of political rivals in the lead up to the election, Kayhan, a newspaper close to the Office of the Supreme Leader, has launched an attack on First Vice-President and potential candidate Eshaq Jahangiri, accusing him of blackmailing rivals and failing in government. Jahangiri’s supporters have responded, arguing that the accusations made in Kayhan were either inaccurate or false.
Hojjatoleslam Abbas Nabavi, the director of the Institute for Islamic Civilisation and Development, announced he will run for president. In a press conference, Nabavi presented himself as a moderate candidate, stating that since 1997 politics had been polarised between Principalists and Reformists, and he offered a neutral way forward.
Conservative candidate Ezzatollah Zarghami announced his campaign would be “bread, housing and freedom”. Zarghami added that he was not a “cover candidate” for anyone else, and he would be campaigning in his own right. He also expressed his interest in the Argentine-Cuban Revolutionary, Che Guevara.
A rumour is circulating that high profile Reformist Mohammad-Reza Aref has decided to go it alone in pursuing his presidential campaign, and that he has broken with former president Mohammad-Reza Khatami and the wider Reformist Institution. An article in Mashregh news noted that in recent weeks, Aref has been campaigning with his own team and not with the help official Reformists organisations, and speculation is that he has grown sick of being side lined in Reformist institutions. Aref was the only Reformist candidate in the 2013 Election, as was bitter at the pressure placed upon him to renounce his candidacy in favour of Hassan Rouhani.
Read more on Mashregh News
Manouchehr Mottaki, the former foreign minister and current spokesperson for the Unity Council of Principalists, stated that Ebrahim Raisi was still the preferred candidate for the Principalist faction. Mottaki added that his organisation, the Unity Council, was also in talks with several other declared candidates in order to judge their ideological suitability. Raisi is yet to announce his candidacy and has previously stated that he would not run.
Hardline conservative politician and deputy speaker of the Parliament, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, today announced he would nominate to run for President. In his announcement, Ghazizadeh stated that he had a plan for fixing the country’s woes, and he took aim at the Reformists, stating that their past behaviour meant that people were unlikely to vote for them
Former IRGC commander, cleric and current governor of Qom, Mohammad-Sadegh Salehimanesh, stated that the sage of Saeed Mohammad’s candidacy is a warning to the Armed Forces about the dangers of military involvement in politics. Salehimanesh argued that the contradictory statements made by Sharif and Javani indicate how political divisions have played out in the IRGC as a result of Mohammad’s nomination. He concluded that the IRGC should focus on its main objective – protecting the country and responding to disasters.
IRGC spokesman Commander Ramazan Sharif criticised his colleague Commander Yadollah Javani for claiming that Saeed Mohammad was dismissed from service for breaking regulations rather than resigning. Sharif stated that Javani may believe that a breach of regulations took place, but this was not the view of the IRGC as an institution. Javani also sought to clarify his comments on Saturday, releasing a statement that said Saeed Mohammad’s alleged dismissal related to “political-electoral behaviour that is contrary to the current regulations of the IRGC”.
Saeed Mohammad’s office issued a statement denying the claims of Commander Yadollah Javani. Yesterday, Javani told the media that Mohammad had been dismissed from the IRGC for misconduct and had not resigned as previously reported. Mohammad’s office added that Javani was not a spokesperson for the IRGC, and that Javani’s statement had been misrepresented by the media.
Ramin Mehmanparast, who served as spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry during the Ahmadinejad administration, yesterday sought to distance himself from the controversial former President. Mehmanparast stated that “I have no political relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During his presidency, despite some differences of opinion, I was the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked with two foreign ministers, Manouchehr Mottaki and Ali Akbar Salehi”. Mehmanparast, who announced his candidacy on Tuesday, likely directed his comments both to potential voters and to the Guardian Council, which rumour has it has already notified Ahmadinejad that it won’t approve his candidacy.
An IRGC Political Deputy, Commander Yadollah Javani, today stated that Saeed Mohammad was dismissed from his command last month for misconduct. Mohammad, seen as a star candidate, had stated on March 9 that he had resigned his command to run for President, and had been unusually quite since the New Year on March 21. Mohammad’s announcement had drawn criticism from Iranians who believed that it was an intrusion of the IRGC on civilian politics, and this was reflected in Javani’s statement that “the IRGC is strongly opposed to the entry of the Revolutionary Guards into the election arena without going through the defined legal processes and processes”.
Read more on Entekha
In Tehran, controversial potential candidate and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended a meeting with the families of Iran-Iraq War martyrs from East Azerbaijan province. According to Ahmadinejad’s official Instagram account, these families bemoaned the poor leadership of the country and called upon Ahmadinejad to run for President and help solve the country’s problems.
Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, on the 42nd anniversary of the referendum creating the Islamic Republic stated on Twitter that then as now the Iranian people should be involved in all state decisions. Adding that the Presidential Elections will be another referendum, Ebtekar was supporting President Rouhani’s repeated statements that deadlocks in government should be resolved through referendum.
During a Clubhouse social media event organised by cabinet minister and potential candidate Mohammad-Javad Azari-Jahromi, Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif again denied that he will run for president. When asked about his position on running for presidency, Zarif responded: “my latest position is no different from my first – I am not a candidate”.
Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani stated when addressing a cabinet meeting that if Iranians do not believe that their vote has any meaning, then the Revolution will have effectively ended. Rouhani then called upon the country to repeat the “Twelfth of Farvardin”, referring to the Referendum that ended the monarchy and established the Islamic Republic in 1979, which had an official turnout of 98.2%
Potential candidate Ali Motahari denied that he was planning to sue another potential candidate, Rostom Qasemi, for allegedly manufacturing an assassination attempt in Lebanon on March 24. Rumours of the lawsuit had been circulating online and in the Turkish press for a few days. Motahari said he had no reason to be involved in the issue, and as far as he is concerned, Qasemi is an honest person.
On the occasion of the celebration in Iran of the birthday of Imam Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam of Shi’a Islam, senior cleric Hojatoleslam Ali-Reza Panahian stated that voting in this year’s election could usher in the coming of the Imam by creating a more just world. Twelver Shi’a Muslims believe that Imam Mahdi exists on earth in a state of occultation, and will become visible to people once again at the end of time. Panahian comments have been labelled “odd” by the Iranian media, but they were in keeping with the theme of encouraging participation in the election, a central point in the Supreme Leader’s Nowruz address.
Seasoned diplomat and current ambassador to Lithuania and Poland, Ramin Mehmanparast, today announced his intention to run for President. Mehmanparast has served Iran’s Foreign Ministry in various capacities over the years and will likely promote his strengths on foreign relations in his campaign. Mehmanparast is well known in Iran for his marriage to the famous actor, Maryam Kayvani.
Ebrahim Raisi, seen as one of the most popular potential candidate and a favourite for the Principalist faction, has once again ruled out running for President. When asked if he would register, he stated that “I don’t think of anything other than the Judiciary”, in reference to his current position. As with another favourite Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Raisi has repeatedly denied he intends to run, but is still likely to change his mind.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech at a religious gathering to commemorate the birth of the Twelfth Imam in Narmak Square, close to his home. In a speech that resembled a rally, Ahmadinejad contrasted the Twelfth Imam’s infallibility and justice with the economic and political inequalities of the present time.
A number of Kurdish academics, cultural, religious and economic leaders published an open letter calling on Saeed Jalili to run for President. Citing his war record in Iranian Kurdistan, and the need for a competent leader to face the country’s problems, the leaders from a number of Kurdish cities stated that Jalili was the best candidate.