Issue Brief on “Iranian Presidential Elections 2017: Understanding the Power Trail”

All around the globe, elections season seems to be in full swing. Among almost 8 major elections that are in the offing, a significant one is expected in less than two months in our very neighborhood – the Iranian presidential elections (Wednesday, May 19th, 2017).[1]  This electoral event shall determine not only the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), but also Tehran’s external policy towards major powers of the world. Analysts sit poised to witness whether the conservative tide would take over the reformist wave that took the nation by storm back in 2013. This tug of war between the two sides keeps the contest rather engaging, but it can also be rather difficult to comprehend owing to the complex political system of the country. This brief attempts to present an overview and analysis of the upcoming elections with reference to the political institutions that influence the electoral process. 

The above flowchart explains how different institutions in the Iranian political establishment are linked to one another. As seen in the chart, the Guardian Council stands to vet all candidates that wish to run for either of the elected institutions. Current President Hassan Rouhani has, amid rumors of disqualification and hesitancy, formulated his campaign headquarters under the aegis of the Reformist and Moderate party. However, the Guardian Council reserves the legal right to dismiss his candidacy if it deems wise, based on tangible evidence of his inadequacy. Rouhani has been under grave criticism by the Conservatives in the Iranian political stream due to his role in JCPOA and his promise to deliver economic ease at home by creating more jobs and investment opportunities. Some also floated the news that the Supreme Leader expressed his disdain regarding the failure in the deliverance of the economic relief promises that Rouhani’s campaign had made. But no news of the Supreme Leader refuting Rouhani’s bid to run for a second term has come to light as of yet.

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