Iran’s Guardian Council Narrows Presidential Candidates to Hardliners Aligned with Khamenei

Iran's Guardian Council has reduced the pool of candidates for this month's presidential election to a select group of hardliners closely aligned with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After evaluating 80 registered candidates based on their religious and revolutionary credentials, the constitutional body approved only six candidates for the June 28th election.

The selection seems designed to ensure a hardline successor following the unexpected death last month of President Ebrahim Raisi. Among the leading candidates is Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator who is believed to be Khamenei's preferred choice. As Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Jalili maintained a rigid stance during talks while advancing the country's nuclear program.

Also in the running is current Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a regime insider and former Revolutionary Guard general. To avoid splitting the hardline vote, either Qalibaf or Jalili may withdraw before the election.

The other approved candidates—Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, Vice President Amirhossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, and former minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi—also align with the hardline faction. Pourmohammadi is notable for his role on the "Death Committee," which sanctioned mass executions in the late 1980s.

The sole relative moderate in the race is MP Massoud Pezeshkian, who has a slim chance of winning if voter turnout is exceptionally low. As an ethnic Azeri, he could attract some support in northeastern Iran. However, his inclusion might be a tactic to boost voter turnout.

Notably, the council blocked two prominent figures from running: former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former parliament speaker Ali Larijani. This exclusion underscores the council's intent to marginalize moderates and reinforce hardline dominance.

With a narrow field of candidates handpicked by Khamenei, the election appears orchestrated to ensure a hardliner victory, leaving Iranian voters with limited options.