Potential Contenders in 2021 Presidential Election

Potential Contenders in 2021 Presidential Election
Potential Contenders in 2021 Presidential Election

Just months after the May election that saw the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani win a reelection, political factions are mulling over his replacement.

Politicians and media outlets affiliated with the major camps of reformists and principlists have already started testing the waters by floating options for waving their banner and winning ballots.

The Persian news website Fararu, in a recent article, summed up speculations about figures being touted as possible presidential candidates in 2021.

Following is an excerpt of the article:

The most obvious contender in the 2021 poll is Rouhani's closest colleague: reformist First Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri.

The veteran politician entered this year's presidential race only to defend Rouhani's first-term track record against powerful principlist rivals and reinforce the president's chances of reelection.

At the beginning of the campaign season, Jahangiri was a largely unfamiliar face to many Iranians. But his strong performance helped him create a good impression in the minds of the pro-reform popular base.

His spirited defense of the government's performance in the heated presidential debates prompted admiration and raised speculations that he is preparing himself for the next contest.

Another likely candidate is the chief reformist: Chairman of Reformist Policymaking Council Mohammad Reza Aref.

Unlike Jahangiri who boosted the centrist Rouhani's campaign by entering the race this year, Aref assisted Rouhani's presidential victory in 2013 by stepping aside in his favor.

Aref later signed up for the parliamentary elections in 2016 and emerged as the top vote-grabber in the most important constituency, Tehran.

The last reformist figure who is the subject of mounting speculations is Mohammad Ali Najafi, a member of the pro-government Executives of Construction Party.

In August, Najafi took the helm of Tehran Municipality that is considered an effective launching pad on the Iranian political scene.

The two previous Tehran mayors, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, both eyed the presidency. While Ahmadinejad managed to become president and even won a reelection, Qalibaf failed in all of his three consecutive presidential bids.

  Principlist Camp

From the principlist camp, Ali Larijani seems to be the most attractive choice.

The Majlis speaker, who has been holding his seat for almost 10 years, has moved toward the center of Iran's political stage in recent years.

Besides remaining close to the principlist powerbase, the pragmatic Larijani has also managed to gain the trust of pro-government forces, including Executives of Construction Party.

The last likely candidate in the next presidential race is Ebrahim Raeisi, a long-serving member of the judiciary and current custodian of Astan Qods Razavi.

Raeisi, a true-blue principlist, was Rouhani's main rival in this year's presidential vote, but failed to win the presidential seat.

However, some believe his performance in the bitterly-contested election pitting him with a sitting president was strong enough to justify a second presidential bid.

The principlists seems to be down on luck these years, as they have failed to tilt public opinion toward their camp in nearly all the votes held since 2013, when Ahmadinejad, the vociferous president whose eight-year tenure was mired in deep controversy, left office.

It remains to be seen whether they can break the chain of electoral defeats in 2021, or reformists will retain their strong grip on power.


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