June 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad Vying to Succeed Raisi

June 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad Vying to Succeed Raisi

Latest Developments

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered as a presidential candidate on June 2. Elections to select a successor to the late Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month, are scheduled for June 28. Ahmadinejad previously served as Iran’s president from 2005 to 2013. He adds his name to a list of individuals, including the former parliament speaker and nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, and the former chief of Iran’s Central Bank, Abdolnasser Hemmati, vying for the presidency. Iran’s Guardian Council — a 12-person clerical body overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — vets all candidates and is expected to publish a list of approved names on June 11. The Guardian Council barred Ahmadinejad from running in Iran’s 2017 and 2021 presidential elections.

Expert Analysis

“It’s a sorry state of affairs when someone like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who in 2009 orchestrated the beating and murder of unarmed protestors at Khamenei’s behest before later falling out with the Supreme Leader, now meets the basic definition of domestic opposition in the Islamic Republic. While it’s highly likely the regime will not let Ahmadinejad run again for president, his candidacy is a reminder that even when political life is dominated by ultra-hardliners, inter- and intra-factional disputes remain a reality of political life.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“Khamenei sees himself as the lifelong executive chairman, chief executive officer, and majority shareholder of the firm, which is the government of Iran. To Khamenei, the president is, at best, an interim chief operating officer who does what Khamenei asks and can be used as a scapegoat when things go wrong. Tensions arise when his handpicked presidents get the idea that they are anything beyond the supreme leader’s expendable executive assistants.” — Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

Ahmadinejad’s Record

Ahmadinejad served two presidential terms, during which he solidified his reputation as a ruthless, anti-Israel hardliner. In 2005, Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” at a conference in Tehran called “A World Without Zionism.” The next year, Ahmadinejad spearheaded a conference titled “Review of the Holocaust,” where he claimed that the extermination of six million Jews was a “myth.” In 2009, the regime rigged elections in Ahmadinejad’s favor, sparking an historic public uprising that saw thousands arrested, beaten, or killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Ahmadinejad received Khamenei’s backing in 2009 but fell out of favor with the supreme leader after calling for limits on his authority. In September 2023, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Ahmadinejad for human rights abuses and for facilitating the wrongful detention of American citizens in Iran.

Iranian Elections

Elections in Iran, though neither free nor fair, have been common features of the Islamic Republic since 1979. Regime officials take advantage of electoral participation, however limited, to feign legitimacy abroad, discourage street protests, and bolster deterrence against foreign pressure. The 2020 parliamentary election and 2021 presidential election notched the lowest-ever official turnout rates in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Iran to Hold Parliamentary Elections but May Face Low Turnout,” FDD Flash Brief

Khamenei is Iran’s most important voter, and he wants more extremism, not less,” by Saeed Ghasseminejad and Behnam Ben Taleblu

Why Does The Islamic Republic Of Iran Hold Elections?” by Saeed Ghasseminejad

Iran’s latest unfree and unfair election,” by Clifford D. May

Issues:

Iran Iran Politics and Economy