Iran’s Muddled Presidential Politics

The most important question posed by Iran’s presidential election this June is not who will be elected, but what that choice will reveal about the intentions of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran's next president may be able to adjust economic or social policies, but it is Khamenei who decides on the biggest issues: relations with the West and the country's nuclear program.

WASHINGTON, DC – The decision of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami not to seek the presidency again has revealed how muddled Iranian presidential politics now is.  In trying to sort out this muddle, the most important thing to keep in mind is not so much who will be elected, but what that choice will reveal�about the intentions of the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Unfortunately, the most likely outcome will be continuing transformation of the Islamic Republic from a civil government into a garrison state in which the military plays a major role in determining political and economic matters.

Who will actually win the vote is unpredictable, but not because Iran is democratic. Ayatollah Khamenei, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, oversees the agencies that will run the election: the Guardian Council and the Ministry of Interior, which supervise the electoral process, and the Basij militia and Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), which unofficially control the ballot-boxes and the vote-counting process.