Who are the candidates for President?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: the current President is associated with the right wing, he would hold the Presidency for a second four-year period, the maximum period allowed according to the Iranian constitution.
Mir Hossein Mussavi: a reformist candidate, painter and former Prime Minister (1981-1989, before the constitutional amendments of 1989, which abolished the office of the Prime Minister, allocating the power of that office to the Presidency). His wife Zahra Rahnevard, who has always been by his side during the campaign, is a prominent political scientist and an Islamic feminist.
Mehdi Karroubi: a progressive cleric, former speaker of the Iranian parliament who is unlikely to muster enough votes to win.
Mohsen Rezai: a conservative, ex-commander of the revolutionary guards who also ran for the last elections in 2005 withdrawing after it became clear that he couldn’t organise much support amongst the right wing constituency. [AA]
How important are these elections for Iran?
These elections are important because they decide who will lead the government for the next four years, not only in its day to day business but also and to a considerable extent in setting the government’s more general policies, both in style and substance. [AG]
How important are they for the rest of the world?
Iran is at the heart of everything in the region. It can not be divorced from what is happening in Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Central Asia in general and of course Iraq. The country has also forged close relations with “leftist” governments in Latin America (Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, the Castros in Cuba and, albeit to a lesser extent, Lula in Brazil).
Apart from its immense oil and gas resources the Islamic-revolutionary model in Iran continues to project the country’s ideological power throug out the Islamic worlds. [AA]
What is the President’s role in Iranian politics?
The President has both legislative and executive powers. Formally, all constitutional organs in Iran (the Parliament, Municipal Councils, Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts, Council for the Discernment of the Interest of the System and the Presidency) are enveloped by the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei the successor to the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Supreme Leader has veto powers over all the other institutions, but it is the informal power of the President, emanating from his election by popular vote, that gives him a powerful mandate to follow an independent agenda, even if it would be opposed by the Supreme Leader. [AA]
Which candidate would the USA and Europe like to see as President?
Interestingly enough all four candidates have indicated that they would welcome a better relationship with the West in general and the US in particular. Although individual style has always been an influential variable in diplomatic relations there are more fundamental issues of national interest which will ultimately decide the pace and direction of such negotiations. However, given the current changes in tone and approach, particularly in the US, there are potential prospects for improved relations. [AG]
Most diplomats that I talk to would like to see the back of the current President Ahmadinejad. [AA]
Dr Adib-Moghaddam is a SOAS Academic and author of, most recently, ‘Iran in World Politics: the Question of the Islamic Republic’.
Dr Ali Gheissari is an academic at the University of San Diego and Visiting Fellow at St Anthony’s College.