At a speech on May 27 at Tehran’s Imam Hussein University, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said: “We don’t know who is going to be the president. We also don’t know in which direction the almighty will direct the hearts of the people.”
Reality is likely to be different. In fact, the Supreme Leader will probably know who the president will be even before the people of Iran go to the voting booths on June 14.
The reason is simple: Iran’s most powerful man needs a yes-man to be his president. He needs someone who will do as he is told, without asking questions.
With corruption and mismanagement eroding the regime’s legitimacy, and increased infighting within its senior ranks, more than ever, Khamenei needs peace and quiet at home.
The ayatollah also needs to show that he is in charge. Allowing the people of Iran to choose someone who would disagree with him could send the opposite signal.
This is why the reformist, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was not allowed to run. Not only would he have questioned some of Khamenei’s policies, he would also have had a good chance of winning. According to former MP Majid Ansari, conservatives realised that he could have won 70 per cent of the vote.
So the question remains: who is likely to be the Supreme Leader’s favourite candidate?
Iranian politics is unpredictable. Things can change from one week to another. For now it seems that of the eight candidates who have been approved to run in the elections, Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has the best chance.
There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator since 2007, he has proven himself to be a loyal soldier who strictly follows the instructions of Khamenei. The same could not be said about his predecessor, Ali Larijani. He resigned from the post in 2007 mainly because he disagreed with the Supreme Leader’s intransigent policies with regards to Iran’s dealings with the West over its nuclear programme.
At number two is Tehran’s popular mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who is also finding favour among the senior ranks of the all-important Revolutionary Guards. He is also a loyalist, although it is believed that he may want to exert a small amount of influence — which is why he is at number two.