Iran Election Watch 2013: Twenty four presidential candidates emerge


The 2013 Iranian presidential election began in earnest this February with the emergence of the first candidates. A recent Fars News Agency report from mid-March now gives us our first look at this election cycle’s crop of candidates, 24 in all, competing to becoming Iran’s next president. Although the actual field of candidates is wider, the Fars News list gives us a good idea of candidates who are actually considered to be within the Islamic Republic’s political establishment and may have a chance of participating. Candidates such as expatriate Professor Houshang Amirahmadi, who has recently gained international attention for announcing his candidacy for the election, have a zero percent chance of making it through the Guardian Council’s vetting process and have thus been excluded from this list.

The candidates come from the Islamic Republic’s five majour political currents: The Neo-Principalists, Ahmadinejad-Mashaei Current, Traditional Principalists, Centrists, and Reformists. You can learn more about them here here. Below the candidates are listed according to their political affiliation and estimated seniority within their respective political current. Their current post within the regime, and where relevant their highest position ever held, are listed with each candidate’s name alongside other potentially important information.



The hardline Persevering Front of the Islamic Revolution (PFIR), the political party representing Neo-Principalists in the Iranian parliament, is considering supporting the first three candidates in this list:

1. Saeed Jalili:  Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and chief nuclear negotiator

2. Parviz Fattah: Former minister of energy (Ahmadinejad administration)

3. Kamran Bagheri-Lankarani: Former minister of health, medical treatment and education (Ahmadinejad administration)

4. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi: Chief inspector and former minister of interior (Ahmadinejad administration)

Ahmadinejad-Mashaei Current

The following list represents candidates who may represent the political current of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei in the upcoming election:

5. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei: Presidential chief of staff (Ahmadinejad administration)

6. Gholam-Hossein Elham: Presidential deputy for management development and human capital

7. Ali-Akbar Salehi: Foreign Minister (Ahmadinejad administration)

8. Ali Nikzad: Minister of transportation and urban development (Ahmadinejad administration)

Traditional Principalists

This category encompasses a wide range of political groups and politicians operating under the Principalist label. While these groups and politicians are not ideologically and organizationally cohesive except in the most narrow sense, they have been categorized as Traditional Principalists because of broad similarities and to distinguish them from the more hardline Neo-Principalists. This political current controls the Iranian parliament and will be putting forward the greatest number of candidates. The most important group within the Traditional Principalists for this election is the Two Plus One Coalition, comprised of three of this current’s leading politicians who will be working together to win the election. Their coalition agreement mandates that only the most popular of the three will participate in the election, with the two others dropping out to support him. This political current’s candidates include:

9. Ali-Akbar Velayati: The supreme leader’s foreign policy advisor and former foreign minister (Hashemi-Rafsanjani administration)

10. Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf: Mayor of Tehran and former national chief of police

11. Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel: Member of parliament and former speaker of the parliament (Seventh parliament, 2004-2008)

12. Ali Fallahian: Member Assembly of Experts and former Intelligence Minister (Hashemi-Rafsanjani administration)

13. Manouchehr Mottaki: Former foreign minister (Ahmadinejad administration)

14. Mohammad-Reza Bahonar: Deputy speaker of the parliament

15. Mohammad Saeedi-Kia: Minister of housing and urban development who holds the distinction of having served in nearly every presidential cabinet since the Islamic Revolution of 1979

16. Ali-Reza Zakani: Member of parliament

17. Yahya Al-e Eshagh: Head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce


The Centrists are led by regime elder statesman former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who as of yet has not announced his candidacy for the election. This political current’s candidates include:

18. Mohsen Rezaei: Secretary of the Expediency Council and former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander

19. Hassan Rowhani: Head of Expediency Council’s Center for Strategic Studies (CSS) and former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council


The Reformists are led by former President Mohammad Khatami, who has not announced his candidacy for the election but has been called upon by 91 Reformists to throw his hat into the ring. As we previously highlighted, the Reformists have been in a tailspin since at least the controversial 2009 Iranian presidential election and are currently divided over the question of whether or not they should renounce the Green Movement and former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi in order to be allowed to participate in the election. This political current’s candidates include:

20. Mohammad-Reza Aref: Former vice president (Khatami administration), he has stated that he will step aside if Khatami formally enters the presidential election

21. Mohammad Shariatmadari: Former minister of commerce (Khatami administration), he has stated that he will step aside if either former presidents Khatami or Hashemi-Rafsanjani formally enter the presidential election

22. Mostafa Kavakebian: Member of parliament, head of Democracy Party of Iran

23. Hossein Kamali: Former minister of labour and social relations (Khatami administration)

24. Eshagh Jahangiri: Minister of industry and mines (Khatami administration)


As in past presidential elections the current field of candidates may continue to expand somewhat, but in the coming months will quickly be whittled down to a handful of ‘viable’ candidates who meet the Guardian Council’s strict vetting standards. Besides this filtering process, a number of other factors are likely to shape the final field of candidates. First, each political current will soon make a strategic decision to back what it perceives to be its most viable candidate, leading most of the others to drop out of the race on their own accord. Second, various political currents may engage in coalition building, as the Neo-Principalists and Ahmadinejad-Mashaei Current appear to have done in the 2005 presidential election when they both threw their support behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Such coalition building may happen, particularly if there is a run-off election in which only the top two candidates from the first round of voting make it through, and would lead to a ‘super candidate’ backed by multiple political currents. It is as of yet uncertain if and what coalitions could emerge.

It is even more unclear how the regime’s hardline leadership will play out this campaign season. For example, will the Ahmadinejad-Mashaei Current and Reformists, labeled as the “deviant” and “seditious” currents respectively by hardliners, be allowed to participate at all in the election? The experience of the last eight years has made it apparent that the regime’s hardline leadership, principally the supreme leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), may throw their weight and resources behind the candidate whom they view as being most pliant. As we’ve pointed out, this may be one of the most closed election in the Islamic Republic’s history. If this analysis is correct, all of this electioneering and even voting may ultimately not matter very much.