Who's running in Iran's presidential election?

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 6/10/2013, 12:10 p.m.
Voters in Iran will cast their ballots on June 14 for the country's next president, a man who will play ...
Iran presidential candidates

By Tara Kangarlou

CNN

Voters in Iran will cast their ballots on June 14 for the country's next president, a man who will play a pivotal role in foreign and nuclear policy and who must also address economic challenges worsened by sanctions and international isolation.

"The central issue of this election is about how to manage the economy better in the face of a debilitating sanctions regime. The main campaign slogans are competence and prudence, I assume developed in reaction to what is deemed as Ahmadinejad's somewhat erratic and bombastic management of the country," said Iranian scholar Farideh Farhi.

This is connected to the question of whether Iran can run its foreign policy in such a way "so as to mollify the external forces that are intent on further isolation and squeezing of Iran," she says. But Farhi adds that "the focus is mostly on tactical shifts and not a major overhaul of Iran's approach to the nuclear file or foreign policy."

Iran's Guardian Council -- made up of six clerics and six lawyers and operating under the oversight of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei -- has approved eight candidates to run in the election, out of more than 680 who registered.

Iran's president is the country's highest official after the Supreme Leader and is responsible "for implementing the Constitution and acting as the head of the executive, except in matters directly concerned with (the office of) the Leadership."

Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is unable to stand as three consecutive terms in office are not allowed in Iran. Although Khamenei had supported Ahmadinejad in the 2009 elections, the two have since become locked in a battle for power.

Of the eight candidates allowed to contest the presidency, five have close ties to Khamenei, while Ahmadinejad's protege, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, has been disqualified.

"What we see here is a consolidation of power in the Office of the Supreme Leader that has been carried out steadily over the past four to six years" said Ali Ansari, founding director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Ahmadinejad arrived at the Ministry of Interior with Mashaei -- whose vice presidency had been publicly rejected by the Supreme Leader earlier this year. The current president's involvement was immediately criticized and called "illegal" by the Guardian Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei.

Middle East expert Geneive Abdo says Ahmadinejad had been positioning Mashaei as a presidential candidate for years. The two are not only like-minded in their nationalism and shared disdain for the clerical establishment, but are also relatives -- Ahmadinejad's son is married to Mashaei's daughter, she says.

Ansari suggests that many in Ahmadinejad's cabinet and even the president himself could be persecuted after the elections. "Ahmadinejad has many enemies now and in Iranian politics when you're out, you're out and he's now worried that his turn has arrived," he said.

Former president and political heavyweight Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- who had criticized the regime's crackdown after the 2009 elections -- has also been banned from the race.