Tehran's Mayoralty: New Names, Old Challenges

Tehran’s growing number of residents expect the next mayor to deliver, be honest and trustworthy and redefine the benchmarks of good local governance
Tehran's Mayoralty: New Names, Old Challenges  Tehran's Mayoralty: New Names, Old Challenges

Names of six candidates for Tehran’s mayoral job emerged on Wednesday after the incoming city council voted on a long list of names that included the likes of Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment, and Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, who led the list of pro-reform nominees for the Tehran City Council elections in May.

However, both dropped out breaking the race wide open.

The candidates are Mohammad Ali Najafi (21 votes), Hossein Marashi (20), Elaheh Koulaei (16), Seyyed Mohammad Ali Afshani (14), Mohammad Shariatmadari (11), and Mohsen Mehralizadeh (9).

The six candidates vying for the sought-after position have been given two weeks to present their roadmap to the council, which plays an integral role in the selection of the mayor.

Mohammad Ali Najafi

Najafi, 66, is a veteran reformist politician and a senior economic advisor to President Hassan Rouhani. He served as minister of education for eight years under the late president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and was Rouhani’s top choice for the same portfolio in 2013, but failed to secure enough votes in parliament, which at that time was controlled by Rouhani’s political opponents.

He was later appointed at the helm of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization but resigned six months later, citing poor health.

Najafi also served as the head of the Management and Planning Organization from 1997 to 2000.

He has a master’s degree in mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hossein Marashi

Marashi, 59, is a former lawmaker with high-profile government jobs, from  governor general of Kerman Province and head of ICHHTO to chief of staff of president Rafsanjani. He also briefly served as vice-president in 2004-5.

He is well known in political corridors and currently is the spokesperson of the reformist-leaning Executives of Construction of Iran Party.

Marashi has a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of Tehran.

Elaheh Koulaei

A researcher and instructor of political science at University of Tehran, Koulaei, 61, is the only female candidate for one of the most critical and seemingly unthankful jobs in Tehran simply because fixing the capital’s monumental problems is not suitable for the faint-hearted.

With a PhD in international relations from Tarbiat Modares University, she is a former journalist and once served at the Foreign Ministry.

Koulaei is a senior member of the Coordination Council of Female Reformists.

Seyyed Mohammad Ali Afshani

Afshani has been serving as governor general of Fars Province since 2014. Prior to his appointment to this post, he had brief stints as deputy governor-general in Semnan, Khuzestan and Kohgiluyeh-Boyerahmad.

He is a former deputy minister of education and headed the Organization for Renovating, Developing and Equipping Schools. Afshani received a badge of honor from the president in 2005 for “years of service to the country.”

Mohammad Shariatmadari

Shariatmadari, 57, is a former minister of commerce (before the ministry merged with the Ministry of Industries and Mines in 2011 to form the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade) and current vice president for executive affairs.

He holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kerman, and has been involved in Iranian politics since the early days of the revolution in 1979.

A former presidential candidate in 2013, Shariatmadari is a foreign policy advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Mohsen Mehralizadeh

Mehralizadeh, 61, is a former vice-president and current chairman of the Tourism Commission at the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.

He served as governor general of Khorasan Province (prior to its splitting into three provinces) from 1997 to 2001 before taking the reins at the Physical Education Organization until 2005 (before its elevation to a ministry).

Mehralizadeh ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2005, receiving the lowest number of votes.

He has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tabriz.

Irrelevant Experience

While the majority of the candidates are experienced politicians, not a single one of them has held a municipal post or has a degree relevant to urban development and management. To say the least, the next mayor will inherit a mess from incumbent Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and intimate knowledge of and expertise in urban planning, environment and development is critical to make life livable in the metropolis of 12 million people and an equal number of problems!

Ending urban decay, expansion of the ageing public transportation networks  (subway system and Bus Rapid Transit) , tackling air pollution, reducing the number of residential and commercial towers popping up in tiny lanes across the capital, fighting corruption in the 22 mayoral districts, closer oversight of multi-million-dollar contracts to the army of companies working for the municipality and finding a solution to the increasing number of beggars/vagrants on the streets and junkies in the working class districts must top the new mayor’s agenda.


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