Iranian Elections Unpredictable and Exciting

Friday’s presidential election in Iran marks a pivotal moment for the Islamic Republic. Although ultimate power in the country remains in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the results will indicate the direction of Iranian foreign and domestic policy, as well as how Tehran plans to engage with the West, for the foreseeable future.

The electoral contest pits incumbent Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, considered a “moderate” by many observers, against hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi, who has served in top positions in the country’s judiciary system for years. Rouhani was elected in a landslide victory in 2013, and is vying for a second term in office, but in the current race, Raisi has managed to consolidate conservative support; recent polls indicate that daylight between the two candidates is extremely narrow. Although the ballot will list other fringe candidates, including Mostafa Hashemitaba, a former Iranian Vice President, and Mostafa Mirsalim, a former Minster of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the election has essentially turned into a two-man event. If neither Rouhani or Raisi win more than 50 percent of the votes, a run-off will take place one week later.

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