Four candidates to battle it out in Iran’s presidential elections

Iranians are heading to the polls on Friday to choose a new president

MOSCOW. May 19. /TASS/ Four candidates, representing the reformist and conservative political forces, will be vying for the Iranian presidency in the country’s elections on Friday, May 19. The reformist movement wants the Islamic Republic to gradually overcome international isolation, which would include mending its political and economic ties with Western powers. The conservative political wing, centered around the orthodox-minded Shia clergy, criticizes the policy of compromises with the West as detrimental to the country’s national interests.

Below is a brief overview of the politicians running in the polls.

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani is the seventh and current President of Iran, who has held the post since 2013.

Born on November 12, 1948 in Sorkheh (the province of Semnan). Born into a religious family, he received a traditional Islamic education at the Seminary of Qom, a holy city for Shia Muslims, and is a qualified mujtahid, a rank of Islamic scholarship equivalent to a PhD degree in the academic world. In 1972, he graduated from the University of Tehran, where he obtained a BA degree in judicial law. He continued his studies at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, where he was awarded a PhD degree in Constitutional Law. He was among Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s key allies during his tenure in 1979-1989. During the 1980-1988 Iranian-Iraqi war, Rouhani held key positions in the Iranian military command, including the post of commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya Operation Center (1985-1988), and Commander-in-Chief of Iran’s Air Defense Force (1986-1991).

Rouhani was first elected to the country’s parliament in 1980, and held the post of deputy chairman between 1992 and 2000. After the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran was amended and the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) came into being, Rouhani has represented Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, at the council from its inception till today. As a chief nuclear negotiator, Rouhani has played a leading role in the international debate on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

In addition to political posts, Rouhani continued his academic career as well, running the Center for Strategic Research (a leading government think tank engaged in shaping the country’s development strategy) since 1992. In 2013, he succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president of Iran, receiving 50.68% during the nationwide vote. The upshot of his first presidential term was the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear agreement between Tehran and the group of six international mediators (Russia, the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and China), and the subsequent partial removal of European and international sanctions in January 2014.

During the current election campaign, Rouhani is viewed as an independent candidate, supported by the country’s reformist circle. His campaign slogan is “More Freedom and Peace.” The incumbent president cites the further implementation of the nuclear deal as the key task for his next presidential tenure and promises to continue working with international partners and allow more young politicians in the country’s cabinet. His economic platform is centered around the issue of unemployment, which he plans to tackle with the help of the “Province without Unemployment” program, which envisages the construction of new factories and plants in different regions of the country.

Ebrahim Raisi

Seyyed Ebrahim Raisos-Sadati was born on December 14, 1960 in the city of Mashhad, the capital of the Razavi Khorasan Province. He has the title of Sayyid, which denotes people accepted as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. He holds a master’s degree in the field of international private law and was also graduated with a Ph.D. in “jurisprudence and fundamentals of Islamic law” from the Shahid Motahari University in Tehran. In 1981-1985, Raisi served as a prosecutor of Karaj (a suburb of Tehran) and subsequently the Prosecutor of Hamadan Province. He was appointed as the prosecutor of Tehran in 1985. In 1994, he assumed the position of head of Iran’s General Inspection Office, which oversees the activity of the country’s executive bodies. Raisi assumed the post of the First Deputy Chief Justice of Iran in 2004, and was promoted to the post of Attorney-General of Iran in 2014.

In March 2016, Raisi became Chairman of the world’s largest Islamic religious foundation, Astan Quds Razavi. He is the keeper of the Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad, the largest mosque in the world by dimension and the second largest by capacity. He enjoys wide support from the country’s security structures, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

In the run-up to the presidential race, a recently-established umbrella of Iran’s conservative parties under the Popular Front of Islamic Revolutionary Forces picked Raisi as a candidate. His campaign emphasizes the need to create an “economy of resistance,” which envisages reducing the country’s dependence on imports, mostly in agriculture. He pledges to decrease the level of unemployment, which stood at 11.3% in 2016, to eight percent and create six million jobs. He also vows to triple the monthly state allowance for the poor and build 200,000 homes for young families. In his foreign policy, Raisi calls on to maintain good relations with all countries except Israel.

Mostafa Agha Mirsalim

Seyed Mostafa Agha Mirsalim was born on June 9, 1947 in Tehran. He studied in France and obtained various academic degrees, including a B.Sc. in Mechanics from Universite de Poitiers in 1969, and an M.Sc. in Internal Combustion Engines from Ecole Nationale superieure de Petrole et des Moteurs in 1972. In 1977-1979, he worked at the Tehran Metro as its operational director.

After the Islamic Revolution, Mirsalim served as the nation’s police chief. From 1981 to 1989, Mirsalim was the advisor to then president Ayatollah Khamenei. He was appointed Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance in 1994 until being chosen to head the Expediency Discernment Council in 1997.

He is Assistant Professor of mechanical engineering at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran.

Mirsalim is running as a presidential candidate from the Popular Front of Islamic and Revolutionary Forces conservative coalition. If elected president, Mirsalim vows to “save the country from economic and social problems” and create jobs in industry and agriculture. He places special emphasis on the ecological situation in the nation’s capital, Tehran, where more than 4,000 people die annually of problems caused by air pollution and vows “to solve the problem of smog by using technological innovations. He styles himself as a defender of the working class and was wearing a worker’s uniform while applying for registration as a presidential candidate. He supports the 2015 international nuclear deal and stops short of criticizing the incumbent government.

Mostafa Hashemitaba

Mostafa Hashemitaba was born on May 22, 1946 in Isfahan, the capital of the eponymous province. He graduated from the Amir Kabir University of Technology. In 1981-1982, he served as Minister of Heavy Industry. Between 1986 and 1988 he held the post of the head of the Olympic Committee of Iran. In 1994-2001, he served as Iran’s vice president. He ran in the 2001 Iranian presidential election and finished last, coming in at the tenth place with 0.1% of the vote.

He represents the reformist forces and his agenda is centered around environmental issues. He calls for nationwide modernization of agriculture and views ineffective use and pollution of water resources as the main threat to Iran’s national security. He said that should he lose, he would support Hassan Rouhani.

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