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EDITORIAL | Iran Election Under Cloud of Doubt with Exclusion of Moderates

Only 6 candidates for president were approved, 5 hardliners and 1 reformist. Well-known moderates in Iran did not qualify, clouding the election's legitimacy.



A woman wearing a black outfit covering her entire body in Tehran, the capital of Iran. Behind her was a signboard for presidential candidates. June 15 (©Kyodo)

Iran's Ministry of Interior has announced six finalists who will appear on the ballot for the nation's presidential election set for June 28. Five are Iran hardline conservatives who favor confrontation with the West. Meanwhile, one is considered a "reformist." Moderates who favor international cooperation were all eliminated during the screening of qualifications. 

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays at the funeral for former president Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Supreme Leader, Getty via Kyodo)

Exclusion of Moderates Invites Problems

Iran's Guardian Council conducted the screening of candidate qualifications. This entity is under the influence of the nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It appears the Council was determined to buttress a system in which hardliners retain the upper hand. However, such an approach does not make for a free and fair election. Therefore, it is natural that it should draw criticism from both within Iran and abroad. 

Iran is faced with a host of domestic and external problems. There is pent-up dissatisfaction due to the government's crackdown on demonstrations and the nation's lifeless economy. Furthermore, fierce fighting continues in Gaza between the fundamentalist Islamic group Hamas and Israel. Meanwhile, the confrontation between Iran, which supports Hamas, and Israel is intensifying. 

This upcoming election was called due to the accidental death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May. Eighty would-be candidates filed applications to run.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with teachers in Tehran, Iran May 1, 2024. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/WANA /Handout via Reuters)

Who Gets to Run

Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Bagher Glalibaf is among the hardliners vying to become Iran's new president. A former mayor of Tehran, he served as a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which forms the chief support of the Islamic regime. It is expected that if elected he will continue Raisi's hardline policy. 

Saeed Jalili, a former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, is also among the leading candidates who qualified to run. He served as chief negotiator for Iran on nuclear issues, refusing to compromise with his Western counterparts. 

Several prominent moderate conservatives, including former Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and former Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, were ruled ineligible. In contrast, Masoud Pezeshkian, a member of parliament and former minister of health who is a reformist, was deemed eligible. However, he is not well known to the public. Therefore, observers do not give him much chance of being able to unite moderate and reformist forces. 

A Local newspaper reports on candidates for the Iranian presidential election, June 10 (©Kyodo)

Alienating Iranian People

During both the 2021 presidential election and the March 2024 parliamentary elections, the Iranian powerholders excluded moderates. In both cases, they also used the qualifications screening process. 

The Iranian public judged these elections to be "farces" and voter turnout, in the 40% range, was historically low. Many young Iranians have lost all hope for the future and are leaving the country. Political leaders would do well not to turn a blind eye to these facts. 

If another hardliner is elected president, concern about Iran's development of nuclear weapons is certain to intensify. 

Living Up to Its Nuclear Commitments

On June 5 the International Atomic Energy Agency demanded that Iran provide it with a "professionally credible explanation" of uranium traces detected at undeclared facilities. 

Iran currently possesses the ability to enrich uranium to 60% purity. That is close to the 90% purity level needed to produce nuclear weapons. Israel and other countries are becoming increasingly alarmed, as this constitutes a major violation of nuclear agreements Tehran previously signed. 

Once in office, the new administration should resume indirect negotiations with the United States. It should revive the nuclear agreement and ease the international community's concerns. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun