Most western pundits portray Iranian elections as a sham orchestrated by the Supreme leader to reach a desired outcome. (See here and here) I, however, find the rough and tumble political contests among Iran’s many factions to be fascinating. Tomorrow’s first round of the Iranian Presidential election is shaping up to be an interesting race; perhaps more interesting than the usual U.S. election which generally boils down to two candidates, selected by the big money donors, who are undifferentiated with respect to their foreign policy.
The most recent polling data that I have seen shows the following:
Prediction of voter turnout: 71%.
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf 23%
Mohsen Rezaei 14%
Hassan Rowhani 13%
Saeed Jalili 10%
Ali Akbar Velayati 8%
Mohammad Reza Aref 6%
Mohammad Gharazi 2%
Gholam Ali Haddad Adel 2%
Hassan Rowhani, the only cleric in the group, and Mohammad Aref represent the more moderate wing of Iranian politics. Since this polling, Aref has dropped out of the contest in order avoid splitting the “moderate vote”. This change, combined with the endorsement of Rowhani by former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani seems to have given the secular liberal population a new dose of enthusiasm. With the remaining candidates splitting the “conservative” vote, it is plausible that Mohammad Ghalibaf and Rowhani could end up in the June 21 runoff election.
Ghalibaf, the pragmatic Mayor of Tehran, is a strong and popular candidate. For a large metropolitan area Tehran is a livable city, if you can get by the life threatening experience of Tehran traffic. Tehranis tend to love their mayors. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a former Tehran mayor. While the projected turnout may be overstated, it is certain to be greater than the U.S. 58%.
Whatever the outcome, any change in Iran’s foreign policy is unlikely. A large majority of Iranians support the nuclear program and changing position on this is in the hands of the Supreme Leader and politically is a non-starter. If the outcome results in better management of the Iranian economy it will make a difference for the ordinary Iranian and that’s what counts for them.
(Another commentary on Iran’s election is here)