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Iran: Raisi In One-Man Race To Be Next President – OpEd

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By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*

Iran’s presidential election will be held next week and the regime appears determined to make Ebrahim Raisi the next president. The regime is applying the lessons it learned from the previous vote to ensure Raisi wins.

The theocratic establishment was hoping that Raisi would win the 2017 election. However, the Guardian Council approved some moderates, such as the incumbent Hassan Rouhani, to also run for the presidency.

From the perspective of the regime, people were less likely to vote Rouhani in for a second term due to his administration’s mismanagement of the economy, as well as Rouhani’s failure to fulfill his campaign promises of improving people’s social, political and religious freedoms.

Nevertheless, what the Iranian regime failed to realize was that, for many ordinary Iranians, the 2017 election was a choice between bad and worse. So they voted for the so-called moderate Rouhani to prevent the hard-liner Raisi from winning. In fact, Rouhani won by a wide margin, claiming 57 percent of votes cast compared to Raisi’s 38.5 percent.

This time, the Guardian Council, which is an unelected body made up of 12 members who are appointed either directly or indirectly by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has learned that qualifying high-profile moderates or reformists would eliminate Raisi’s chances of winning the presidency. So the council orchestrated a plan to ensure the disqualification of Raisi’s potential rivals.

Its agenda began with introducing restrictions. At first, the Guardian Council announced that “all nominees must be between 40 and 70 years of age, hold at least a master’s degree or its equivalent, have work experience of at least four years in managerial posts… and have no criminal record.”

However, not only does Raisi not have a master’s degree from a university, he didn’t even continue past the sixth grade at school. Mohsen Mehralizadeh, an Iranian politician who holds a doctorate in financial management, pointed to Raisi’s lack of formal education during a televised presidential debate this week. He said: “You have only six years of classic education and, while respecting your seminary studies, I must say that one cannot manage the economy and draw up plans for the country with this much education.”

But the Guardian Council qualified Raisi to run for the presidency by declaring that his seminary studies are equivalent to a master’s degree. It also later announced that it could disqualify candidates even after initially allowing them to run for the presidency. This restriction was most likely imposed to prevent other qualified candidates from harshly criticizing Raisi.

More surprisingly, the Guardian Council even disqualified some of the regime’s top insiders in order to remove any hurdles that might prevent Raisi from becoming president. A prominent example is Ali Larijani.
The second son of Grand Ayatollah Haj Mirza Hashem Amoli and the son-in-law of Ayatollah Morteza Motahhari, Larijani was born  in Najaf, Iraq. His parents are Iranians from Behshahr in the northern province of Mazandaran. Larijani, who was born into a religious family, has been involved in Iran’s security and political establishments since the outset of the regime. He studied mathematics and computer engineering at Sharif University, obtained a doctorate in Western philosophy from Tehran University, and graduated from the Haqqani School, the Shiite school of thought, in Qom.

Larijani later joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and eventually became a commander. He went on to hold several critical posts, including secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, parliament speaker, deputy minister of information and communications technology, deputy minister of labor, and minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

As a result, he is a robust and loyal confidant of Khamenei, making him one of the most important politicians in the country. Although some argue that Larijani has shifted his position from being a hard-liner to a moderate, he is believed to have only pursued the policies favored by the supreme leader.

Rouhani’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, another individual who could have been a threat to Raisi’s presidency, was also disqualified. It is ludicrous that Jahangiri is eligible to serve as the regime’s current vice president, but is not eligible to run for the presidency.

As a result of all the restrictions imposed by the Guardian Council, out of 592 people who registered to run as candidates in Iran’s 13th presidential election, the unelected council only approved seven individuals.

In a nutshell, the Iranian regime has disqualified anybody who might pose a risk to Raisi’s chances of winning the election. This has made it a one-man race.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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