Tehran, April 18: Iranian Presidential election soon to be held and therefore candidates who are willing to compete have started registering their names. However, this time one of the eminent clerical leader and former prosecutor-general Ebrahim Raisi will compete against Hassan Rouhani who is already a president.
Notably, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former president and one of the country’s most prominent populists began giving off signals that he was preparing a third run at the leadership last year. He also registered for the Presidential election, which could be a direct and tough challenge to the country’s highest religious figure Ebrahim Raisi.
Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani like Ahmadinejad dreams of another term. But in the run-up to the vote but experts say that it may be tough for Rouhani to win. The Iranian Presidential election is scheduled on May 19 which will decide that will decide the fate of Iran between country’s reformists and conservative elite.
Raisi is a custodian of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, Iran’s second-biggest city, and presides over a billion-dollar religious fund known as the Astan-e Qods Razavi. He is a close ally of Khamenei, who appointed him as head of the foundation last year. Many Iranians speculate that Raisi is Khamenei’s choice to stand against Rouhani, although Iran’s top cleric has not yet said who he is supporting.
Raisi’s role presiding over the shrine, visited by 30 million religious pilgrims every year, will likely improve his standing with Iranians who may not immediately recognize him—especially when up against Rouhani, who has led the country for the past four years.
Iran’s conservative elite has not yet agreed upon a single candidate it can back against Rouhani. But while a lot can change before election season officially begins on April 28, many see Raisi as the man with the most potential to pose a serious challenge to Rouhani. Before Ahmadinejad’s announcement, Raisi was the frontrunner among five hardline candidates.
Raisi has targeted corruption in the country and said that he would not use his position as the head of a wealthy foundation, or its finances, to help his election campaign.
Experts also said that Raisi victory could increase already simmering tensions between the Islamic Republic and the West, particularly with the U.S. under President Donald Trump, who has voiced his opposition to the Iranian regime and the nuclear deal and cut off all diplomatic contacts with the country after Barack Obama’s thaw in relations with the country.
On the other side, Rights groups have criticized Rouhani for a lack of reform on political and social freedoms, a promise he made when he rode to power on the back of votes from young Iranians. But if Raisi is elected, the situation for more liberal-minded Iranians is not optimistic.