Iran presidency candidates to step forward, finally
Updated: 2013-05-07 11:21
DUBAI - Few Iranian presidential elections have been so unpredictable but the next few days will at least narrow down who will stand in the ballot on June 14, for which candidate registration starts on Tuesday and ends on Saturday.
What is certain is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has held ultimate power as Supreme Leader for 24 years, wants to avoid both the mass protests by reformists that greeted the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, and also more of the public feuding between the outgoing president's allies and fellow hardliners which has marked Ahmadinejad's second term.
"The Iranian leadership is so nervous, even if it doesn't need to be. The 2009 election was an enormous loss of face for the establishment and they're very concerned about a repetition," said a Western diplomat based in Tehran.
"Instead of trusting the people, they have put their trust in all sorts of security measures.
Some hopefuls have already declared they will register to run in the first round in six weeks. But many with the strongest chances have been hanging back, weighing their prospects until the last minute, with an eye not only to public opinion but to the Guardian Council of clerics and jurists which can reject any candidacy until a final roster is published around May 23.
With reformist groups largely suppressed over the past four years, the election campaign may reflect little of the debates among Iranians - on how to shore up an economy sagging under Western sanctions, or on foreign policy and the nuclear program that has provoked international concern.
"There is an absence of political discussion, a lack of talk about taxation, the economy or relations with neighbouring countries," the Tehran-based diplomat said.