Who are the six candidates running for Iran's presidential election?

Who are the six candidates running for Iran's presidential election?
Eighty politicians registered for this election, but the country's Guardian Council approved only six of them to run.
6 min read
13 June, 2024
After President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash, an early election will be held on 28 June. [Getty]

The approval of six politicians to run in the upcoming presidential election in Iran confirmed what many local analysts predicted: the election was planned so that a loyal candidate would win.

After President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash, an early election will be held on 28 June. Eighty politicians registered for this election, but the country's Guardian Council approved only six of them to run.

The Guardian Council is one of the most powerful political institution in Iran. Six of its members are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, and the other six are indirectly appointed by him. The council vets candidates for all elections in Iran.

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This process allows the country's military theocracy to influence election results in favour of candidates close to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Here are the six politicians approved by the Guardian Council to run in the presidential election:

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, 62 years old

Qalibaf is known for his years as the head of Iran’s police force. During the Iran-Iraq war, he was a member of the IRGC, quickly rising through the ranks to become a commander in this military group loyal to the Supreme Leader.

In 1999, during the student movement in Tehran, which was brutally crushed by the IRGC and the police, Qalibaf was one of the IRGC commanders leading the Basij paramilitary forces that attacked the students.

Four years later, as the country's police chief, his forces brutally attacked the Tarasht dormitories in Tehran and cracked down on another student demonstration.

This former IRGC commander, now serving as the parliament speaker, was a key supporter of forming a special police force to enforce the Islamic hijab law. Qalibaf has also been accused of involvement in several corruption cases, but he has never been prosecuted.

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Saeed Jalili, 58 years old

Jalili is a veteran soldier who fought in the Iran-Iraq war as a member of the paramilitary Basij forces. He lost a leg in that war and then joined the circle of hardliner politicians ruling the country.

He is now a representative of the Supreme Leader in the country's Supreme National Security Council, which shapes Iran's nuclear policy and foreign affairs.

Jalili also teaches "Prophet [Mohammad]'s Diplomacy" at Imam Sadiq University, an Islamic academic institution that trains hardliners to join the ruling politicians.

In 2007, he became well-known after being appointed secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, responsible for nuclear talks with Western powers. During this time, the harshest sanctions were imposed on Iran because of its nuclear program.

Gary Samore, a former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism who participated in the nuclear talks with Jalili, said about him: "Jalili, with the exception of the Tehran Research Reactor, was not trying to negotiate an agreement."

Alireza Zakani, 58 years old

He is another war veteran who took off the Basij paramilitary and IRGC uniforms after the end of the Iran-Iraq war and entered the corridors of politics as a fundamentalist, eventually leading him to his current position as the Mayor of Tehran.

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Rewarded for the injuries he sustained to the hand, leg, and neck during the war, he entered medical school at Tehran University. Despite very poor academic records and exam failures, he graduated from Tehran University with a PhD in Nuclear Medicine.

Although he studied medicine, he failed to fill a corona vaccine syringe. The incident occurred in front of reporters' cameras during a propaganda campaign and immediately went viral on Farsi social media, where Iranians ridiculed the Tehran mayor and his knowledge of medicine.

Zakani is also one of the IRGC figures who actively took part in the suppression of the 1999 student movement in Tehran. He is a staunch opponent of negotiations and relations with Western powers, yet his daughter studied in Switzerland and gave birth to Zakani's grandson there.

Like many other high-ranking politicians, Zakani is accused of involvement in several corruption cases, for which he has never been held accountable.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, 64 years old

A hardliner cleric, Pourmohammadi is known for his involvement in one of the darkest periods of cleansing dissidents in post-revolution Iran. Among the opposition, he is nicknamed the "hanging judge" due to his willingness to sentence dissidents to death.

He and President Ebrahim Raisi were part of a four-person committee that ordered death sentences for thousands of political prisoners, some of whom were at the end of their prison terms and awaiting release.

Pourmohammadi's rise to power was rapid due to his close ties with fundamentalist clerics who took control of Iran's judicial system after the revolution. He was only 20 years old when he was appointed as Islamic Revolution Prosecutor in the city of Masjedsoleyman in the southwest.

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The brutality he demonstrated in suppressing dissidents paved his path to the highest positions in Iran's judicial system and led to his appointment as minister of justice.

He also served in the country's notorious intelligence ministry between 1987 and 1999, during which several dissident intellectuals were assassinated in a wave of killings known as Iran’s Chain Murders.

Pourmohammadi is now director of the Islamic Revolution Document Center.

Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, 53 years old

Ghazizadeh Hashemi was only 15 years old when he joined the Basij paramilitary forces fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. He was from a labourer family in the small city of Fariman in the northeast of the country, and now serves as the head of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs.

This conservative politician was also injured during the war, and with the special quota that Basij forces receive from the establishment, he was able to register in a public school of medicine in the religious city of Mashhad.

Ghazizadeh Hashemi, unlike other Basij and IRGC forces who announced their candidacy for the upcoming presidential election, has not been much in the spotlight. He served as a legislator from his hometown, Fariman, for 20 years.

He was one of the four candidates in the 2021 presidential election and received the lowest number of votes, with 3.46 percent of all votes cast in the election.

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Masoud Pezeshkian, 69 years old

Pezeshkian is also a doctor; however, unlike other candidates who obtained their diplomas through the quota the establishment offers to IRGC and Basij members, he entered Tabriz University's medical school before the 1979 revolution.

Nevertheless, he was close to the Islamists, who gained power after the revolution and executed and imprisoned their nationalist and leftist rivals. When the war between Iran and Iraq began, he volunteered for the frontline and organized the medical teams deployed there.

Pezeshkian is the only candidate close to the reformists who served as the minister of health in the cabinet of the reformist former president Mohammad Khatami. His approval by the ultra-conservative Guardian Council to enter the election fuelled various speculations.

Some experts suggested he was approved because he can increase voter turnout, while the IRGC and the office of the Supreme Leader are confident he cannot win the election due to his lack of national recognition.