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Iran’s presidential contenders

  • Supporters of the Iranian presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani, a former Iran's top nuclear negotiator, chant slogans, as they hold his posters, during a street campaign, in Tehran, Iran,Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

TEHRAN: Iranians will go to the polls Friday to choose their next president from a pool of six candidates. 

Here’s a brief look at each of the contenders for the presidency: 

Hassan Rouhani

Rouhani, 64, one of three front-runners in the race, is the only religious scholar among the six hopefuls and the lone candidate representing reformist voters.

His educational credentials bridge both East and West: As an Islamic scholar, he holds the rank of hojjatoleslam, or an authority on Islam; he also earned a master’s degree in public law from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.

Rouhani served as national security chief under former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. During Khatami’s administration, Rouhani also held the post of Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator for nearly two years.

Rouhani has vowed to repair Iran’s frayed diplomatic relations with the West and ease societal restrictions.

Both Rafsanjani and Khatami publicly backed Rouhani’s candidacy after a deal was forged to unify reformist ranks ahead of Friday’s vote.

However, unlike some reformist leaders who have been isolated or pushed out of power since the 2009 election, Rouhani maintains good relations with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Saeed Jalili

Jalili, 47, another front-runner, belongs to the conservative or Principlist camp, and is considered as close to Khamenei.

He holds a doctorate from Emam Sadegh University in Tehran.

As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, he has since 2007 maintained a polite but firm stance in talks with the West over the Islamic Republic’s enrichment of uranium.

Jalili, who hails from the holy shrine city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, lost his leg in the Iran-Iraq war of the ’80s, earning him the status of a war hero among segments of Iranian society.

The need to boost the country’s ailing economy has been one of his core campaign messages, and Jalili has earned praise for running a thrifty campaign at a time of economic hardship.

Jalili has won public backing from a number of influential figures and groups, including Ansar-e Hezbollah and conservative Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, both of whom supported President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 election.

He is also regarded as highly popular among the rank-and-file of the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary force.

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf

Qalibaf, 67, also a front-running candidate, is a conservative or Principlist mayor of Tehran, former national police chief and Revolutionary Guard air force commander.

He ran a failed bid for the presidency in 2005, losing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but his political stock has more recently risen sharply, having served since then as mayor of the sprawling capital, the country’s most densely populated region.

Also born in Mashhad, Qalibaf has won admiration and praise for his work as mayor, having overseen multiple infrastructure projects and improving public transportation.

But his opponents have accused him of spending lavishly on his electoral campaign. He has also faced criticism over his role as police chief in the 1999 crackdown on reformist students.

During the nationally televised debates, he pledged to rebuild Iran’s economy within “six months.”

His son is married to the daughter of Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, giving rise to speculation that he has the backing of Revolutionary Guard leaders.

Ali Akbar Velayati

Velayati, 67, one of three Principlists in the race, has served as Khamenei’s chief foreign policy adviser since 1997.

He also served as foreign minister for 16 years during the presidency of Rafsanjani and the premiership of Mir Hossein Musavi.

He was approved as a candidate in the 2005 presidential race, but withdrew before the vote took place, telling his supporters to vote for Rafsanjani.

His position as an adviser to Khamenei boosts his conservative credentials, but he has less of a popular following than the other Principlist candidates.

Velayati has been critical of Ahmadinejad’s confrontation tone, and has promised to mend the country’s relations with the international community.

Argentina and Germany have sought his arrest over his alleged role in a 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires and the 1992 “Mykonos Assassination” of a Kurdish leader in Berlin.

Mohsen Rezaei

Rezaei, 58, holds a doctorate in economics and served for 16 years as the head of the elite Revolutionary Guard.

In 1997, Khamenei appointed him secretary-general of the Expediency Discernment Council, which mediates disputes between the Parliament and the Guardian Council.

This marks his third run for the presidency, after he lost in 2009 to Ahmadinejad and withdrew from the race in 2005 two days before the vote.

Born in Masjed Soleiman in the southern province of Khuzestan, a predominantly Arab region, he fought against the regime of the Shah with a group known as Mansurun for four years before the outbreak of the Iranian Revolution.

He has promised to fix economic problems and promote job-creation in order to reduce unemployment.

Argentinean and German authorities have said he is also a suspect in the Buenos Aires and Berlin attacks and have sought his arrest.

Mohammad Gharazi

Gharazi, 72, is widely regarded as the candidate who trails furthest behind in the presidential contest.

Born in Esfahan, he holds a master’s degree in electronics from the Tehran University.

He served for eight years as oil minister in Mousavi’s Cabinet, and eight years as communications minister under Rafsanji.

He was one of 12 military leaders who formed the Revolutionary Guard in the first months after the Iranian Revolution in 1980.

His campaign has focused on his “60 years” of experience as a manager, but he has not played a role in politics for the last 16 years, making his entry into the race a surprise in Tehran.

While other candidates have made daily appearances at campaign rallies, drawing huge audiences, Gharazi has often addressed smaller groups or held news conferences attended by only a handful of journalists.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 13, 2013, on page 9.
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