With Iran’s presidential election looming close, there’s a lot of debate and controversy over who is going to occupy the country’s top political role. With tight restrictions on candidates, a supreme leader who can override the results, and institutions that can manipulate the popular vote, there’s not much to say about the credibility of Iran’s presidential elections.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to know who might be at the front of Iran’s showcase of politicians for the next four years. Here’s what you need to know about the potential candidates for Iran’s presidency in May’s elections.

Hassan Rouhani

Iran’s incumbent president will be running for a second term coming May. However, he has much to answer for regarding his first four years. Rouhani came with promises of moderation toward the international community and life improvement for the populace.


So far, Rouhani has only carried on with his promise to settle Iran’s nuclear dispute with world powers by clinching a tentative deal the fate of which isn’t clear. The rest leaves much to promise.

The economic incentives from the nuclear deal have yet to trickle down to the middle and lower classes who aren’t associated with regime factions. Also, during Rouhani’s presidency, the human rights situation in Iran has worsened with record level executions and increased crackdown on activists and minorities. Iran’s involvement in the Syrian crisis and its meddling in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon have also become exacerbated during Rouhani’s tenure.

Read more about Hassan Rouhani.

Ebrahim Raisi

The man who is likely to succeed Iran’s supreme leader will likely be the frontrunner for the Iranian regime’s Prinicipalist faction. Sorely lacking in higher education, Ebrahim Raisi will be tapping into his seminary studies and experience serving the regime in judiciary positions to run the country under the watchful eyes of the supreme leader.


Ebrahim Raisi’s prominent role in the massacre of 30 thousand political prisoners and his history in prosecuting and oppressing opposition members paints a grim picture of what Iran will look like under his rule.

He’s also overseeing the Astan Ghods Razavi Foundation, an organization with large economic and political clout whose president is selected by the supreme leader. The appointment alludes to his close ties and loyalty to the regime’s leadership and principles.

Read more about Ebrahim Raisi.

Saeed Jalili

One of the failed 2013 presidential candidates, Saeed Jalili will try his luck in running for office again this year. Jalili’s early history in the Iranian regime is highlighted with high ranks in the Revolutionary Guards, a force that is associated with domestic human rights abuses and foreign terrorism.


He later served in the Iranian regime’s diplomacy and security apparatus, including a stint as the Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American affairs under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The supreme leader also appointed him as his representative in the Supreme National Security Council in 2008.

Jalili headed the Iranian delegation in the nuclear talks between 2007 and 2010, a period during which three UN National Security Council resolutions were passed against Iran.

Read more about Saeed Jalili.

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf

The mayor of Tehran and a veteran Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is likely to run for presidency coming May—for the third time. Ghalibaf has been involved in IRGC operations since its inception and had a prominent role in suppressing the Kurdistan uprisings early after the foundation of the Islamic Republic.


He was also active in the Iran-Iraq war and was involved in the regime’s dispatching of children to the frontlines. In the post-war era, Ghalibaf partook in the effort to build the economic empire of the IRGC and served as the deputy commander of the Khatam garrison.

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has helped develop the Iranian regime’s apparatus for quelling dissent and protests. He has often boasted about his role in this regard, including the crackdown on the 1999 student uprisings, in which he went on record calling himself a proud “club-wielder,” the term used for plain-clothes agents the regime uses to suppress demonstrators.

After failing to curry favor with the supreme leader in the 2005 and 2013 elections, Ghalibaf will try his luck again this year.

Read more about Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.

Hamid Baqai

After former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was spurned by the supreme leader for another shot at presidency, he sent forth his deputy Hamid Baqai to fill the void as an act of defiance.


Baqai comes with a history of serving the Iranian regime’s security and intelligence apparatus inside the country and beyond its borders. He also brings in tow a fraud and corruption scandal that relates to his second term in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet.

Read more about Hamid Baqai.


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