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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Iran’s presidential election dominated by Khamenei loyalists

An Iranian insider close to Khamenei, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the Supreme Leader "has no tolerance for political infighting when cohesion among those in power is essential".

Iranians choose a president on Friday in a tightly controlled election following Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash last month, with the outcome expected to influence the succession of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top decision-maker.

With Iran’s supreme leader now age 85, it is likely that the next president will be closely involved in the eventual process of choosing a successor to Khamenei, who has ensured candidates sharing his hard-line views dominate the presidential contest. The election coincides with escalating regional tensions due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, increased Western pressure on Iran over its rapidly advancing nuclear program, and growing domestic dissent over political, social, and economic crises.

Read more: Iran’s Supreme Leader praise American university students supporting Palestine

However, the looming succession of the fiercely anti-Western Khamenei is the overriding concern among Iran’s clerical elite. The Guardian Council, a hard-line vetting body of clerics and jurists aligned to Khamenei, has approved five hard-line candidates and one low-profile moderate one from an initial pool of 80.

DIVIDED NATION

An Iranian insider close to Khamenei, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the Supreme Leader “has no tolerance for political infighting when cohesion among those in power is essential”.
“A president, who is loyal and aligns completely with the supreme leader while also a trusted ally of the Revolutionary Guards, can significantly contribute to a seamless transition of power,” said the insider.
While devout supporters of the clerical establishment are expected to vote for hardliners, many Iranians may choose to abstain amid limited electoral options, discontent over a crackdown on dissent, and anger over worsening living standards.
The chances of Pezeshkian, who is also strongly loyal to Khamenei, depend on attracting millions of disillusioned mainly young voters who have stayed home in elections since 2020 and also on persistent splits among the five hardline candidates.
The reformists’ electoral strength remains uncertain, however, as some voters believe they failed to deliver greater freedoms during their past tenures in power.
Unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, in custody in 2022, exposed a widening divide between reformists and their power base, after leaders distanced themselves from demonstrators who demanded a “regime change”.
Reformists remain faithful to Iran’s theocratic rule but advocate detente with the West, economic reform, social liberalisation and political pluralism.
Khamenei called for a high turnout that he said “will silence the Islamic Republic’s enemies”.
Iranian dissidents, both domestically and abroad, have called for an election boycott, distributing the hashtag #ElectionCircus widely on the social media platform X, arguing that a high turnout would legitimise the Islamic Republic.