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Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 18): Presidential Election in Iran and Some Realities

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review.Org

June 14, 2013, is the day when the Iranian people will go to the polls for the 11th time after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in order to elect their new president for the next four years. Perhaps, this is one of those rare occasions when no expert or observer can surmise with an acceptable margin of accuracy that who would be the next president. During past presidential polls, there were two major factors, namely, the general atmosphere in the society and the relative prominence of candidates, which made such a prediction more possible. These days, however, the only analysis which is heard with an acceptable margin of certainty is that the presidential candidates will go for a runoff. It is almost certain that none of the candidates is able to win an absolute majority of votes in the first round of the presidential poll. However, even the question as “who would go to the runoff” is still shrouded in mystery. Some believe that if [reformist presidential candidates] Messrs. [Hassan] Rohani and [Mohammad Reza] Aref agreed to form a coalition, one of them would certainly head for the runoff. Some analysts also believe that one of the members of the Coalition of Three; that is, Messrs. [Gholamali] Haddad Adel, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf will be the second option for the runoff election. However, there are many doubts about these presumptions. Will such coalitions come to life in the reality? Where do Messrs. [Saeed] Jalili or [Mohsen] Rezaei stand in this situation? Have three televised debates that have been already aired by the state television had reduced popularity of Mr. Jalili as some unofficial opinion polls indicate? Or on the opposite, Mr. Jalili and Mr. Rezaei will win the majority of votes in small, but numerous towns which are scattered across the country and the opinion of their residents are seldom, if ever, taken into account in opinion polls carried out through the Internet or the phone call? In the meantime, the influence and social base of the supporters of every candidate is also of high importance. Who is the candidate of choice for traditional businesspeople in Tehran’s Bazaar and the clerics; will they support Mr. Ghalibaf or Mr. Velayati? Will Messrs. Hashemi and Khatami join hands in supporting a single candidate? Will the incumbent administration which has a lot of supporters in small towns and cities enter the election equation as an important variable at the eleventh hour?

These are just a handful of many questions whose answers are currently shrouded in mystery as a result of which it has become very difficult to guess who would finally become the next president of Iran. However, a few points have been established beyond any doubt which should not be ignored in the ballyhoo of election campaigns.

Firstly, despite all the negative propaganda against the forthcoming presidential election, it is beyond any doubt for any fair observer that the Iranian Leader [Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei] does not support any specific candidate and any assumption in this regard would be erroneous. Frequent emphasis by Ayatollah Khamenei that he does not support any specific candidate has made it impossible for certain political groups to speculate about the Leader’s intent. This has been constantly a major factor which has guaranteed wholesomeness of various elections in Iran.

Secondly, the type of attitude and expression that Ayatollah Khamenei has adopted toward presidential candidates, who have not been approved to run for president by the Guardian Council, and the fact that the Leader directly thanked them for abiding by the law and complying with the decision of the Guardian Council, is another important factor which serves to ensure the health of the upcoming election. The mature words and statements issued by Mr. [Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani after his name was not announced on the list of approved candidates, and his effort to calm down the general atmosphere in the society, also proved that these two pillars of the Islamic Republic do not care for the negative propaganda [launched by the Western media] and even natural differences of opinion which exists between them when it comes to safeguarding the very foundations of the Islamic establishment and supporting the achievements of the Islamic Revolution. News photos showing Mr. Hashemi sitting on the right-hand side of the Leader of Iran during a celebration held to mark the rise of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to prophethood  was clear evidence to the unity and friendship that exists between the two men about which I had already explained in an earlier article.

Thirdly, three rounds of election debates attended by eight presidential candidates have proven a very important point: that these people represent eight different viewpoints and approaches [to various issues]. Although all of them respect the country’s law and the Constitution, their views are at times quite opposite to one another. Differences about the best “way of managing” Iran's nuclear dossier – not Iran’s “right” to achieve nuclear technology – is one of the main characteristics of the difference in their viewpoints. Perhaps, the different viewpoints of Mr. Rohani and Mr. Jalili over the way that Iran's nuclear dossier has been managed was predictable, but the difference between Mr. Velayati and Mr. Jalili, which clearly came to the surface during the third round of debates, was indicative of two things. On the one hand, it proved that such a difference in viewpoints and approaches can even exist within the principlist camp while, on the other hand, and more importantly, it made null and void allegations that “the Leader dictates Iran's diplomatic approach to the nuclear issue.” The debate clearly proved that the senior advisor to the Leader in international affairs [Velayati] is at odds with secretary of the Supreme National Security Council [Jalili], whose obedience to the Leader is beyond any doubt, over such issues as management of the country’s nuclear case and certain other issues, and clearly expresses that opposition. This fact is further evidence to the assumption that decisions on Iran's nuclear energy program are made through collective wisdom and consultation and are not dictated [by the Leader]. Perhaps, at present, the viewpoints of people like Velayati, Rohani, Aref, or Rezaei, which have been made clear through their positions on certain areas of Iran's foreign policy, do not conform to the current approach which has been taken by the incumbent administration, but all of them are members of the Islamic Republic’s Expediency Council and it is possible for them to give voice to their critical views about macro policies of the Islamic establishment. Therefore, the conception that the “final decision-maker on Iran's foreign policy, both with regard to details and general outlines, is the Iranian Leader and no one else [has a say]” cannot be true and is merely a superficial presumption stemming from certain journalistic analyses.

And finally, all the above facts prove that the presidency in Iran is not a titular or even merely executive institution. Unfortunately, some superficial analyses which are the result of lack of enough knowledge about power interactions in the Iranian political system have been trying to promote this view with the ultimate goal of criticizing the position of the Leader in Iran. As evidence, it should be noted that in the foreign policy sphere, the orientation of Iran's foreign policy is dependent on the viewpoints of the president more than anybody else. The focus of Iran on the Latin America under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the conflict between that policy and the policy of expanding relations with the neighboring countries as well as the European Union, which was followed under his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, clearly proves that Iran's foreign policy goals are not dictated in a vertical manner from the Leader to the president. In all cases, including the Islamic Republic’s approach to the nuclear case, relations with other countries, the management of international sanctions, the best way for the promotion of Iran's influence in the region, and the best method for the protection of Iran's interests at regional and international levels, most decisions are made within the decision-making structure of the Executive power. If domestic policies as well as the economic, social, and cultural approaches are added to the above list, it would become clear that the result of the presidential election which will be held in Iran within a few days will have an important effect on the continuation or change in the Islamic Republic of Iran's ongoing policies. It will also be a more real demonstration of the dynamic capacities which exist in the Iranian society as opposed to the negative picture which is displayed by foreign media that are against the Iranian government.

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 17): Election Campaign in Pictures

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 16): Viewpoints of Mohammad Gharazi

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 15): Viewpoints of Gholam Ali Haddad Adel

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 14): Viewpoints of Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 13): Viewpoints of Mohammad Reza Aref

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 12): Viewpoints of Hassan Rouhani

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 11): Viewpoints of Ali Akbar Velayati

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 10): Viewpoints of Saeed Jalili

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 9): Viewpoints of Mohsen Rezaei

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 8): Biographies of Eight Qualified Candidates for Iran Presidential Election

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 7): Critical Notes on Iran's Forthcoming Presidential Election

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 6): Statistical Review of Presidential Elections in Iran

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 5): Economy Top Election Issue

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 4): Relations with United States

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 3): Notes on Elections in Iran

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 2): Political Array of Iran Presidential Election

*Iran's 11th Presidential Election (No. 1): Facts and Figures

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