Tehran’s mayor leaves Iranian presidential election race

Tehran’s mayor leaves Iranian presidential election race

16/05/17

Melanie Ullrich, Business and Policy Programme Manager

With the presidential election in Iran scheduled for 19 May, another candidate has pulled out of the race today, leaving the incumbent Hassan Rouhani with four challengers. Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf gave up his candidacy to support Ebrahim Raisi, a senior cleric and former state prosecutor, according to Reuters, and most likely the main challenger of Rouhani.

President Rouhani was elected in 2013, promising reform and change. He negotiated a crucial deal in 2015 to partially-end the international sanctions against Iran. After elements of the sanctions were lifted, Iran enjoyed a massive 6.6 per cent growth in 2016-2017. Unemployment, however, is still very high, as domestic growth was driven mainly by oil exports rather than job-creating investment.

In the event of his election, Ebrahim Raisi is expected to return to a hardline presidency. This could potentially drive Iran back into more isolation, increase the hostility between Iran and the US, and reverse some of the economic success achieved under President Rouhani.

Raisi’s decision to run, only six weeks before the election, came as surprise to many. In 2016, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei named him the custodian of an important Shiite shrine which indicated Raisi to be a leading candidate to succeed the Ayatollah.  His emergence as the conservative favourite signals the fragmentation of Iran over almost every issue, including the nuclear deal and the reopening of the Iranian market for foreign investors.