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Iran Elections - 14 June 2013

Hassan Rowhani ex nuclear negotiator 8,439,530 50.48%
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf mayor of Tehran2,560,383 15.32%
Mohsen Rezaei Mirqa'ed ex IRGC chief 2,101,330 12.5%
Saeed Jalili nuclear negotiator1,890,462 11.31%
Ali Akbar Velayati adviser to Khamenei 977,765 5.85%
Mohammad Gharzai conservative technocrat 196,922 1.18%
Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel ex Majlis speaker withdrew
Mohammad-Reza Aref Khatami's VP withdrew

Hassan Rohani won Iran's 11th presidential election following a vote that saw mass popular turnout reported. Rouhani received a big lift when reformists led by ex-president Mohammad Khatami swung behind him after their own lacklustre candidate Mohammad Reza Aref withdrew to help consolidate the non-conservative vote. In contrast, several high-profile conservatives with close ties to powerful clergy and Revolutionary Guards chiefs failed to unite behind a single candidate, suffering what appeared to be a decisive split in their support base as a result.

Iran's 11th presidential election was held on Friday 14 June 2013 along with the 14th municipal elections. The election winner is faced with an economy struggling with high unemployment and inflation, crippled by international sanctions imposed over Iran's disputed nuclear program. While some candidates favored improved ties with the international community, major policy decisions rest with the supreme leader. State-run media said polling stations would remain open to allow those already in line to vote. An Iranian election official told the French news agency turnout was likely to reach at least 70 percent. Iran's state-owned news network Press TV said that voter turnout in the presidential election has been around 80 percent. That is about 40 million votes out of a possible maximum of 50 million. Iran's leaders historically like to tout high voter turnout, though many observers had expected a lower turnout after what was described as an inspiring campaign.

With former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad's close ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, out of the picture, the election field was dominated by hardliners loyal to Iran's clerical leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The president of Iran is elected for a four-year term in a national election, and the Guardian Council vets the candidates for qualifications. The Iranian Constitution stipulates that presidential candidates must be religious or political figures, be Iranian in origin, have Iranian citizenship, have resourcefulness and managerial skills, have no criminal record, be trustworthy and pious, and have firm belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the country's official religion.

If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the second round will be held the next Friday, June 21. Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's second term as president ends in 2013 and under Iran's constitution, he cannot run for a third consecutive term. The election is probably less important than might be thought, as Ahmadinejad had seen his position weaken following a power struggle with allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the actual leader of the country. The ultimate decision-maker is Ayatollah Khamenei, not the President. And politics in Iran are largely driven by personal and faction rivalries, not policy disputes.

The registration for the 11th presidential election of Iran came to an end May 11, 2013 with 686 individuals having signed up for the race. The registration which began on Tuesday March 7 at Iran's Interior Ministry ended on Saturday at 6 p.m. (1330 GMT).

A number of prominent Iranian officials registered to participate in the election including Chairman of Expediency Council and former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997, is seen as a threat to Iran's clerical elite around Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other candidates include Head of the Secretariat of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Esfandiyar Rahim-Mashaei, Secretary of Iran's Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei and former First Vice-President and Reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref. Principlist lawmaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Principlists Alireza Zakani, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati [a top adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei on international affairs], Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Vice-Speaker of Majlis Mohammad-Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard are among other hopefuls. Ahmadinejad's choice for the next Iranian president is his ally, hardline nationalist Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie.

The Guardian Council, which vets presidential hopefuls for official candidacy, on 22 May 2013 approved eight individuals on 22 May 2013 who had signed up for the race. The Council approved Member of Majlis Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel; Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili; Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei; Hassan Rohani, the director of the Strategic Research Center of the Expediency Council; former First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Aref; Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf; former Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Gharazi; and former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati.

One candidate seen as reformist, Mohammad Reza Aref, dropped out the week of the election and then announced his support for Rowhani. Mohammad Reza Aref said he decided to leave the race after receiving a letter from former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami telling him it would not be wise to remain in the race. Another candidate, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, dropped out of contention saying he wanted to boost the chances of his fellow conservatives.

Rahim Mashaei and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were not among the approved hopefuls. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pledged to follow up on the Guardian Council (GC) disapproval of his top aide, Esfandiyar Rahim Mashaei.

Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a two-time former president and the incumbent chairman of the Expediency Council, said on 22 May 2013 that he did not wish to distress the nation in the run-up to the election and noted, "I would like to urge friends not to allow the dust of smear [campaigns] by certain individuals, which has unfortunately turned into a nasty habit in elections, to blind them to justice and morality and lead them, too, to don a cloak of insult and slander.... "What made me enter the field was concerns over the [idle] insinuation of the idea that religion is ineffective in running the affairs of the society, [as well as concerns over] a decline in production, the unemployment of the youth, an ailing economy, Iranophobia among [Iran's] neighbors, moral and cultural contradictions, and the international sanctions, all of which have resulted in livelihood problems in the society," the former Iranian president pointed out.

Analysts say he was disqualifed from the election because the campaign had already become hugely popular and he was regarded as a threat to the leadership. I don't think the country could have been run worse, even if it had been planned in advance, Rafsanjani said to members of his campaign team on Wednesday, according to the Kaleme report. I don't want to stoop to their propaganda and attacks but ignorance is troubling. Don't they understand what they're doing?

Iran Elections - Background

In November 2012, the supreme leader's representative in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Hojatoleslam Ali Saeedi, listed management skills and revolutionary and Islamic values as prerequisites for "suitable and competent" candidates. Iran observers narrow the list further, as the contest will be waged among traditionalists and the new guard within the conservative camp. Reformere, or figures close to outgoing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, are given virtually no chance of winning.

This will be the first presidential election since the controversial election of 2009, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejads victory triggered widespread allegations of vote fraud and mass street protests. Even though Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ensured Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the disputed 2009 election, they made clear the president did not have as much autonomy as he had thought. The clerical establishment likely will turn to a less fiery loyalist for the presidential election in 2013. There not going to be a big surprise like there was in Tunisia and Egypt.

Western sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear activities are starting to hurt economically. The cracks in Iran's economic planning became plain as parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly on 07 October 2012 to reopen debate on a key government economic program. The vote came just days after the rial made a record plunge against the U.S. dollar as sanctions on oil exports limit Iran's access to hard currency. Conservatives in parliament have accused President Mahmud Ahmadinejad of mishandling the country's economy, including the latest crisis which has seen Iran's currency lose much of its value. By late 2012, while the government maintains that the official inflation rate is 25 percent, it has actually spiraled out of control, with some analysts claiming that actual figures are double the government rate. In addition, unemployment has soared, with estimates stating that between 500,000 and 800,000 Iranians have lost their jobs in the past year.

Speculation in Iran is focused on which personality Khamenei will back as the next president to succeed Ahmadinejad. By late 2012 early favorites among analysts included Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign minister from 1981 to 1997 and a long-time confidant of Khamenei, and Saeed Jalili, the head of Irans nuclear negotiation team. Others that have attracted the "great mentioner" include Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and Tehrans Mayor Mohammad Qalibaf. While both are aligned with Khamenei, they may be too independent-minded, like Ahmadinejad. Abdullah Nouri, a former government minister and prominent reformer, was potential "outsider" presidential candidate.

Iran's parliamentary elections were held Friday, 01 March 2012. Although the Majles does have some institutional powers, these powers are largely limited to domestic policy. Some 3,400 candidates stood for seats in the 290-member parliament. More than 48 million Iranians were eligible to cast ballots. Iran's main opposition and reformists groups boycotted the election, the first since the disputed 2009 presidential vote. Mostly hardliners' names appeared on the ballots. All candidates were cleared by the Guardian Council, a powerful group of Islamic experts and jurists that rules on constitutional issues. The Guardian Council banned approximately a third of the aspiring candidates from contesting the 290 seats. Many of these were supporters of Ahmadinejad.

Iranian conservative critics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated his supporters in most of the parliamentary seats whose winners were initially declared in the country's parliamentary election. Iran's state-run Press TV news agency said Sunday results have been declared for more than 200 of parliament's 290 seats following Friday's vote. More than half of the winners are conservatives who support Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and oppose the policies of President Ahmadinejad. Iran's government said 30 seats will have to be decided in run-off elections in the coming weeks. Iran's government put the turnout rate for the parliamentary election at 64 percent, a significant increase over the 57-percent rate for the previous vote in 2008.

Solat Mortazavi, Political Deputy of the Interior Ministry, announced 12 August 2012 that two prominent reformist political parties, the Association of Combatant Clerics and the Islamic Iran Participation Front, which were banned following the 2009 presidential election, will continue to be forbidden from entering the 2013 presidential election campaign.

Mir Hosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two opposition candidates in the last election, became the target of severe persecution by the government for their persistence in challenging the election outcome and were finally put under house arrest in February of 2011. Mousavi and Karroubi have been under house arrest since February 2011, and all efforts to free them have been to no avail. Zahra Rahnavard, MirHosein Mousavis wife, is also being held under house arrest with her husband. The election protests of 2009 persisted for months and were finally quelled after a severe state crackdown on the opposition.

The Iranian electorate comprises a diverse mix of voters, including the true believers, the scared voters, and those just looking for moderate improvement. As in the past, much discussion has centered on four groups of voters: rural voters, urban voters, young voters, and a potential bloc of IRGC/Basij votes. Rural voters were considered Ahmadinejad's base of support but accurately gauging his standing in the provinces is extremely difficult. His promises of economic development both help and hurt the president. Urban voters have recently stayed away from the polls, ceding influence, to the rural areas. Iran's demographics dictate the importance of the youth vote-roughly 18 million of the 42 million eligible voters are between the ages of 18 and 27. Perhaps overstated, however, is the importance of the IRGC/Basij.

Rural voters have played an increasingly outsized role in recent elections. Elections in rural areas remain a community event. Much of the town on election day will attend Friday Prayers and then collectively head to the polls. Although there was not necessarily pressure to vote for a particular candidate, peer pressure induced many in the community to vote. According to press reports, despite accounting for 35 percent of the national population in 2005, Iran's rural voters cast 50 percent of the votes. Even though Iran's 2006 census showed a drop in the rural share of population to roughly 30 percent, such voters are still almost certain to be a disproportionate share of those casting ballots.

Iran's presidential contenders recognize the rural vote's newfound importance, and indeed, it was a critical component of Ahmadinejad's re-election campaign. Ahmadinejad's now-famous provincial trips had brought him to Iran's hinterlands 52 times by February, according to one estimate. Along the way, he provided cash handouts to those attending his rallies and promised large public works projects to the tune of billions of dollars. His provincial visits drew thousands and probably earned the president a reservoir of support. However, Ahmadinejad's largesse and promises in the provinces cut both ways. Ahmadinejad "overpromises" but does deliver on at least some of his pledges, leaving some voters satisfied with provincial development and others disappointed with the broken promises.

Rural voters would not have reached such prominence without urban voters' increasing apathy. Tehran is illustrative in this regard, where recent turnout has mostly been under 30 percent, according to press reports. Were the urban areas to turnout in proportion to their 70 percent share of the population they would easily determine the election's outcome. For Iran's educated elite, the most pressing issue is not the faltering economy but rather the relationship with the US. Not surprisingly, they want to replace Ahmadinejad with someone who better represents Iran to the international community. Many urban Iranians who previously voted for Khatami now voice little interest in Iranian politics (reftel). Such dissatisfied urban voters are the reformers' natural constituency. Overcoming their reticence to vote is a principal challenge for reformist candidates.

Equally challenging, and critical, will be drawing Iran's youth to the polls. In this election, there will be fewer voters participating solely to exercise a new-found right, as most of Iran's youth came of voting age in 2005. By dint of their numbers, however, the Iranian youth the key to the election. According to the 2006 census, the 15 to 24 age bracket included nearly 18 million Iranians and with roughly six years since the census' publication, all of this age group should now be eligible to vote. However, outside of the Basij, politicians and political parties have not demonstrated effective get-out-the-vote strategies and it is not clear if they will be able to do so.

Many of the 2009 Green Movements young supporters have shown signs that they were giving up hope of dramatic political change. A lot of the youth in Iran, having had this moment in 2009, were tired of the effort they were putting in trying to drive change from the streets. And many Iranian youth, if they can, are starting to leave the country as opposed to trying to change the country. But the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt may have an inspirational impact on Irans so-far unsuccessful protesters.

Iran's Green Path Opposition (GPO) came into being as a result of the fixed June 12 Presidential election. What started as a movement to annul the election now gives shelter both to those seeking the full set of rights guaranteed them by Islamic Iran's Constitution and others seeking a new system altogether. Although the numbers of those publicly willing to march under its banner have decreased in the face of regime brutality, its current core group, mostly college-age urban youth, have shown no sign of giving up the fight. But like the regime that seeks to crush it, the GPO is not monolithic and there is a clear gulf between the opposition's elite leadership and the popular movement protesting in the streets. Remaining outside the umbrella of the GPO is an array of unsatisfied groups whose willingness to join the GPO is unclear.

Fears of that the IRIG will tilt the system in favor of a preferred candidate often center on the IRGC and Basij. Many largely discount the idea that the IRGC will favor one candidate or that the organization represents a homogeneous voting bloc. The conscripts in the IRGC are more likely to match the public's voting trend rather than collectively support a favored IRGC candidate. In a review of the 2005 presidential election, the Basij's chief influence in the election was their ability to mobilize voters. That potential still exists.

Among rural voters, urban voters, young voters, and the IRGC/Basij - the voters seem more a heterogeneous mix than a uniform bloc of voters, rendering it difficult to anticipate how the different groups will vote.




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