Iran’s Election: Where the Candidates Stand

By Ladane NasseriLadane Nasseri, Kambiz ForooharKambiz Foroohar and Mira RojanasakulMira Rojanasakul

Iran’s May 19 election is being fought as a referendum on the policies of President Hassan Rouhani, the moderate cleric who championed integrating Iran with the global economy and curbed his nation’s nuclear work in exchange for relief from sanctions. His opponents say gains from the nuclear deal are yet to make their way down to the majority of ordinary Iranians.

Candidates for the 2017 Iranian Presidential Election

Slogan:

“For Rouhani, For Iran”

“The Government of Work and Dignity”

“The Government of the People”

Dropped out and threw support to Raisi

Hassan Rouhani

President

Moderate/centrist

Age: 68

 

 

Ebrahim Raisi

Head of the powerful Astan Quds charitable foundation

Conservative/hardline

Age: 56

 

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf

Tehran Mayor

Conservative

Age: 55

 

Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator and has been the president since 2013. Central to his legacy is the 2015 deal struck with world powers that rolled back economic sanctions and curbed Iran's nuclear program. He has used the campaign to attack his opponents over personal freedoms, corruption and wealthy state bodies that don't pay tax.

 

Raisi has held a number of judicial roles, including more recently that of deputy judiciary chief and prosecutor general. He was appointed by Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to manage the wealthy Islamic charity that also controls Iran's holy shrine in the city of Mashhad.

Qalibaf is a former Revolutionary Guards air force commander and an ex-chief of the security force. He has long had his eyes set on the presidency, running in 2005 and again in 2013, when he trailed Rouhani. Qalibaf has been the mayor of Tehran since 2005.

“All for Iran”

“Protecting Iran”

“Integrity and Truth”

Dropped out and threw support to Rouhani

Eshagh Jahangiri

First Vice-President

Moderate-reformist

Age: 59

 

Mostafa Hashemitaba

Former Vice President of Iran

Reformist

Age: 70

 

 

Mostafa Mirsalim

Former Minster of Culture and Islamic Guidance

Conservative

Age: 69

 

A former industry and mines minister, Jahangiri has indicated he is running to boost the president's campaign and will not be competing with him. He is expected to drop out before the election and support Rouhani.

A former top official of Iran’s physical education organization and National Olympic Committee, Hashemitaba was the only reformist allowed to run by the Guardian Council. He is a supporter of the nuclear accord and in the three debates was outspoken about economic harm done by the administration of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

An engineer and former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Mirsalim was an adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei when he was president in the 1980s. Educated in France, Mirsalim closed a number of newspapers during his tenure.

Slogan:

“For Rouhani, For Iran”

“The Government of Work and Dignity”

“The Government of the People”

Dropped out and threw support to Raisi

Hassan Rouhani

President

Moderate/centrist

Age: 68

 

 

Ebrahim Raisi

Head of the powerful Astan Quds charitable foundation

Conservative/hardline

Age: 56

 

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf

Tehran Mayor

Conservative

Age: 55

 

Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator and has been the president since 2013. Central to his legacy is the 2015 deal struck with world powers that rolled back economic sanctions and curbed Iran's nuclear program. He has used the campaign to attack his opponents over personal freedoms, corruption and wealthy state bodies that don't pay tax.

 

Raisi has held a number of judicial roles, including more recently that of deputy judiciary chief and prosecutor general. He was appointed by Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to manage the wealthy Islamic charity that also controls Iran's holy shrine in the city of Mashhad.

Qalibaf is a former Revolutionary Guards air force commander and an ex-chief of the security force. He has long had his eyes set on the presidency, running in 2005 and again in 2013, when he trailed Rouhani. Qalibaf has been the mayor of Tehran since 2005.

“All for Iran”

“Protecting Iran”

“Integrity and Truth”

Dropped out and threw support to Rouhani

Eshagh Jahangiri

First Vice-President

Moderate-reformist

Age: 59

 

Mostafa Hashemitaba

Former Vice President of Iran

Reformist

Age: 70

 

 

Mostafa Mirsalim

Former Minster of Culture and Islamic Guidance

Conservative

Age: 69

 

A former industry and mines minister, Jahangiri has indicated he is running to boost the president's campaign and will not be competing with him. He is expected to drop out before the election and support Rouhani.

A former top official of Iran’s physical education organization and National Olympic Committee, Hashemitaba was the only reformist allowed to run by the Guardian Council. He is a supporter of the nuclear accord and in the three debates was outspoken about economic harm done by the administration of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

An engineer and former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Mirsalim was an adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei when he was president in the 1980s. Educated in France, Mir-salim closed a number of newspapers during his tenure.

Slogan:

“For Rouhani, For Iran”

Hassan Rouhani

President

Moderate/centrist

Age: 68

Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator and has been the president since 2013. Central to his legacy is the 2015 deal struck with world powers that rolled back economic sanctions and curbed Iran's nuclear program. He has used the campaign to attack his opponents over personal freedoms, corruption and wealthy state bodies that don't pay tax.

 

 

“The Government of Work and Dignity”

Ebrahim Raisi

Head of the powerful Astan Quds charitable foundation

Conservative/hardline

Age: 56

Raisi has held a number of judicial roles, including more recently that of deputy judiciary chief and prosecutor general. He was appointed by Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni, to manage the wealthy Islamic charity that also controls Iran's holy shrine in the city of Mashhad.

“The Government of the People”

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf

Tehran Mayor

Conservative

Age: 55

Qalibaf is a former Revolutionary Guards air force commander and an ex-chief of the security force. He has long had his eyes set on the presidency, running in 2005 and again in 2013, when he trailed Rouhani. Qalibaf has been the mayor of Tehran since 2005.

Dropped out and threw support to Raisi

“All for Iran”

Eshagh Jahangiri

First Vice-President

Moderate-reformist

Age: 59

A former industry and mines minister, Jahangiri has indicated he is running to boost the president's campaign and will not be competing with him. He is expected to drop out before the election and support Rouhani.

Dropped out and threw support to Rouhani

“Protecting Iran”

Mostafa Hashemitaba

Former Vice President of Iran

Reformist

Age: 70

A former top official of Iran’s physical education organization and National Olympic Committee, Hashemitaba was the only reformist allowed to run by the Guardian Council. He is a supporter of the nuclear accord and in the three debates was outspoken about economic harm done by the administration of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Integrity and Truth”

Mostafa Mirsalim

Former Minster of Culture and Islamic Guidance

Conservative

Age: 69

An engineer and former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Mirsalim was an adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei when he was president in the 1980s. Educated in France, Mirsalim closed a number of newspapers during his tenure.

Slogan:

“I’m Back”

Hassan Rouhani

President

Moderate/centrist

Age: 68

 

 

Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator and has been the president since 2013. Central to his legacy is the 2015 deal struck with world powers that rolled back economic sanctions and curbed Iran's nuclear program. He has used the campaign to attack his opponents over personal freedoms, corruption and wealthy state bodies that don't pay tax.

“The Government of Work and Dignity”

Ebrahim Raisi

Head of the powerful Astan Quds charitable foundation

Conservative/hardline

Age: 56

 

Raisi has held a number of judicial roles, including more recently that of deputy judiciary chief and prosecutor general. He was appointed by Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni, to manage the wealthy Islamic charity that also controls Iran's holy shrine in the city of Mashhad.

“The Government of the People”

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf

Tehran Mayor

Conservative

Age: 55

Dropped out and threw support to Raisi

Qalibaf is a former Revolutionary Guards air force commander and an ex-chief of the security force. He has long had his eyes set on the presidency, running in 2005 and again in 2013, when he trailed Rouhani. Qalibaf has been the mayor of Tehran since 2005.

“All for Iran”

Eshagh Jahangiri

First Vice-President

Moderate-reformist

Age: 59

 

Dropped out and threw support to Rouhani

A former industry and mines minister, Jahangiri has indicated he is running to boost the president's campaign and will not be competing with him. He is expected to drop out before the election and support Rouhani.

“Protecting Iran”

Mostafa Hashemitaba

Former Vice President of Iran

Reformist

Age: 70

 

 

A former top official of Iran’s physical education organization and National Olympic Committee, Hashemitaba was the only reformist allowed to run by the Guardian Council. He is a supporter of the nuclear accord and in the three debates was outspoken about economic harm done by the administration of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Integrity and Truth”

Mostafa Mirsalim

Former Minster of Culture and Islamic Guidance

Conservative

Age: 69

 

An engineer and former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Mirsalim was an adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei when he was president in the 1980s. Educated in France, Mirsalim closed a number of newspapers during his tenure.

A victory for Ebrahim Raisi, Rouhani's leading conservative challenger, would likely worsen already-tense relations with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump—who has described the 2015 nuclear deal as a disaster and Iran as a terrorist-supporting nation that needs to be confronted. A hardline president would also be a further deterrent for foreign investors, the very people Rouhani maintains his country needs to boost its economy and standing in the world.

The following is a run-down of where the top two candidates in the polls stand on the major issues that will face the incoming president.

U.S. Relations

Hostility has been a defining characteristic of Iran-U.S. relations during the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic. President Hassan Rouhani broke a taboo when he spoke on the phone in 2013 with then-U.S. President Barack Obama. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has adopted a more aggressive approach to Iran. That, in turn, has fueled discussion in the Iranian state media and during the election debates as to whether the country needed a more confrontational leader to stand up to the U.S.

U.S.-Iran Timeline

2012

U.S. and Iran begin secret talks on nuclear issues

1979

Iran takes 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days

1988

U.S. warship accidentally strikes Iranian passenger flight, killing 290

2013

Hassan Rouhani is elected president of Iran on centrist platform

1980

U.S. cuts diplomatic ties, seizes assets, and bans most trade

2008

Bush sends official to Geneva for nuclear negotiations with Iran

2002

George W. Bush declares Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil.”

1979

Iran’s Islamic Revolution forces out U.S.-backed Shah

1985

U.S. secretly ships weapons to Iran in exchange for its help in Lebanon. Profits are shipped to rebels in Nicaragua.

July 2015

The U.S. and five other world powers reached nuclear deal that lifted most sanctions on Iran six months later.

Oct. 2007

U.S. announces new sanctions cutting off 20+ orgs. and three state-owned banks from the U.S. financial system.

May 1995

Clinton bans all U.S. trade and investment within Iran.

1980

1985

1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

2015

Carter

Reagan

Bush

Clinton

Bush

Obama

Trump

Khamenei

Rafsanjani

Khatami

Ahmadinejad

Rouhani

Banisadr

Rajai

1979

Iran’s Islamic Revolution forces out U.S.-backed Shah

Banisadr

1979

Iran takes 52 U.S. Diplomats hostage for 444 days

Carter

1980

1980

U.S. cuts diplomatic ties, seizes assets, and bans most trade

Rajai

Reagan

Khamenei

1985

U.S. secretly ships weapons to Iran in exchange for its help in Lebanon. Profits are shipped to rebels in Nicaragua.

1985

Bush

1988

U.S. warship accidentally strikes Iranian passenger flight

1990

Rafsanjani

Clinton

May 1995

Clinton bans all U.S. trade and investment within Iran.

1995

2002

George W. Bush declares Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil.”

Khatami

2000

Oct. 2007

U.S. announces new sanctions cutting off 20+ orgs. and three state-owned banks from the U.S. financial system.

Bush

2005

Ahmadinejad

2008

Bush sends official to Geneva for nuclear negotiations with Iran

Obama

2010

2012

U.S. and Iran begin secret talks on nuclear issues

2013

Hassan Rouhani is elected president of Iran on centrist platform

Rouhani

2015

July 2015

The U.S. and five other world powers reached nuclear deal that lifted most sanctions on Iran six months later.

Trump

1979

Iran’s Islamic Revolution forces out U.S.-backed Shah

1979

Iran takes 52 U.S. Diplomats hostage for 444 days

1980

U.S. cuts diplomatic ties, seizes assets, and bans most trade

Banisadr

Carter

Rajai

1985

U.S. secretly ships weapons to Iran in exchange for its help in Lebanon. Profits are shipped to rebels in Nicaragua.

1980

Reagan

Khamenei

1985

1988

U.S. warship accidentally strikes Iranian passenger flight

1990

Bush

Rafsanjani

May 1995

Clinton bans all U.S. trade and investment within Iran.

Clinton

1995

2002

George W. Bush declares Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an “axis of evil.”

Khatami

2000

Bush

Oct. 2007

U.S. announces new sanctions cutting off 20+ orgs. and three state-owned banks from the U.S. financial system.

2005

Ahmadinejad

2008

Bush sends official to Geneva for nuclear negotiations with Iran

2010

Obama

2012

U.S. and Iran begin secret talks on nuclear issues

Rouhani

2015

Trump

2013

Hassan Rouhani is elected president of Iran on centrist platform

July 2015

The U.S. and five other world powers reached nuclear deal that lifted most sanctions on Iran six months later.

Rouhani has been of a proponent of active diplomacy with all countries, including arch-foe U.S.
Raisi has said Iran should project a strong and unified front vis-a-vis the U.S.

Economy

Iran's economy has seen an improvement since the lifting of sanctions in January 2016, with inflation curbed to single digits, from a high of over 40 percent, and gross domestic product growth estimated at more than 6 percent in the fiscal year that ended in March. Unemployment has figured prominently in the election campaign, with Rouhani's challengers saying he hasn't done enough to convert the economic improvement into jobs for the poorer majority.

Inflation, Avg. Consumer Prices

GDP, current U.S. dollars

Unemployment Rate

GDP, current U.S. dollars

Unemployment Rate

Inflation, Avg. Consumer Prices

Inflation, Avg. Consumer Prices

GDP, current U.S. dollars

Unemployment Rate

Source: International Monetary Fund; Bloomberg

Rouhani says Iran needs foreign investment and technology to grow its economy. He has underlined the need for Iran to be a safe environment for investors—including Western ones.
Raisi says he can create up to 1.5 million jobs a year and will multiply, by twofold or threefold, subsidies to low income Iranians to “eradicate poverty”.

Nuclear Deal

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., is central to Rouhani's legacy—and his pitch for a second term. He delivered on a 2013 pledge to end Iran's economic isolation after years of ever-tighter global sanctions. Rouhani's rivals have said the nuclear deal is a national document and needs to be respected by the next government, despite the “flaws” it contains. The governments in Tehran and Washington have accused one another of not living up to the spirit of the agreement, raising questions over its fate should ties between the two spiral downward.

Oil Production in Iran

Millions of barrels per day

Jan. 2016

Sanctions lifted

July 2015

Nuclear deal signed

May

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

April

2017

Jan. 2016

Sanctions lifted

July 2015

Nuclear deal signed

2012

May

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Jan. 2016

Sanctions lifted

July 2015

Nuclear deal signed

May

2012

April

2017

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Source: OPEC

Rouhani says the deal has put Iran on a safe track, away from risks of war and on the path to prosperity.
Raisi says the deal's “check has not been credited” to Iran yet, and he will be working on making its benefits felt by all Iranians.

Social Freedom

Rouhani has backed greater social freedoms for Iranians. For example, he portrays a freer internet as a civil right and an opportunity, rather than the propagator of immoral behavior seen by some hardliners. But progress has been slow. If he's re-elected and attempts to deliver the more-liberated Iran that he's talked about during the election campaign, he'll have to finally confront conservative institutions that wield a lot of power.

Internet Censorship in Iran

Ratio of censored vs. uncensored content from the top 500 websites across 18 categories, based on analysis of Alexa web-traffic rankings in 2013

95.4%

48.4%

47.8%

40.0%

28.4%

27.0%

21.4%

19.2%

18.6%

Adult

Top 500

Art

Society

News

Regional

Computers

Games

Shopping

18.6%

18.6%

18.4%

14.8%

10.4%

10.2%

6.4%

6.2%

5.0%

Sports

Kids & Teens

Business

Recreation

Home

Health

Iran

Science

Reference

95.4%

48.4%

47.8%

40.0%

28.4%

27.0%

Adult

Top 500

Art

Society

News

Regional

21.4%

19.2%

18.6%

18.6%

18.6%

18.4%

Sports

Kids & Teens

Business

Computers

Games

Shopping

14.8%

10.4%

10.2%

6.4%

6.2%

5.0%

Recreation

Home

Health

Iran

Science

Reference

95.4%

48.4%

47.8%

40.0%

Adult

Top 500

Art

Society

28.4%

27.0%

21.4%

19.2%

News

Regional

Computers

Games

18.6%

18.6%

18.6%

18.4%

Sports

Kids & Teens

Business

Shopping

14.8%

10.4%

10.2%

6.4%

Recreation

Home

Health

Iran

6.2%

5.0%

Science

Reference

Source: Internet Censorship in Iran: A First Look

Rouhani is a proponent of a “less policed” society and less state intervention in people's lives.
Raisi says constructive criticism of the government can be allowed. He has spoken in favor of technology and the Internet insofar as they can be arenas for job creation, but he says they must not infringe on the privacy of Iranians.