ISNA: Six Scenarios For June’s Presidential Election In Iran
A commentary published by semi-official news agency ISNA Tuesday [April 14] put forward six scenarios for June’s presidential election in Iran, depending on the impact of indirect talks between Iran and the United States, the turnout, and the possible candidacy of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Overall, pundits and the media see voter disillusionment and expect a lackluster elections this year.
The Impact of Iran-US Negotiations
The first two scenarios assume possible positive or negative results of talks with the United States. According to ISNA, if both Iran and the United States return to Iran’s 2105 nuclear deal with world powers – the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) - Iran's economy will see benefits. This can boost ‘moderates’ linked to the Rouhani administration and could lead to their victory. But the chances that an agreement would have tangible results before the elections are low.
On the other hand, ISNA wrote, if negotiations fail and economic pressures on Iran continue, moderates and those close to Rouhani will have no chance of victory.
After two elections in which Rouhani promised economic progress and social freedoms, many people have lost hope their vote can change anything. They increasingly see Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as the only decision-maker and the president as insignificant.
Just this week, Khamenei told Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, not to run in the presidential election. The hardliner Guardian Council will also block the candidacy of many insiders. According to ISNA, if there is no diversity of candidates, hardliner conservatives will benefit from disillusionment.
In the fourth scenario, “radical groups” – meaning ‘principlists’ – will try to dissuade voters from going to the polls, even though Khamenei has said he wants a high turnout. Iran's hardliners have always believed and said publicly, ISNA claimed, that a high turnout would lead to the defeat of their candidates in any election. So, they might encourage a low turnout. A high turnout could favor the reform camp if reformist candidates are allowed to run.
A Moderate-Reformist Coalition
The fifth scenario is based on a coalition between reformists and the moderates currently in the government. This approach was successful in Rouhani’s victories in the presidential elections in 2013 and 2017.
However, it is unlikely to work in June 2021 as both the reformists and so-called moderates lost any advantages during the past eight years because of their inaction and occasional submission to ideas of hardline conservatives. The moderates have been discredited by the failure of Rouhani's plans on various economic and political matters.
The Ahmadinejad Effect
The sixth scenario is all about Ahmadinejad. ISNA's commentary says the former president can be an influential player. Ahmadinejad is relying on some poll evidence that he has a substantial base, and he believes himself capable of winning the election.
This scenario is based on the people's dissatisfaction. Many have said in polls and on social media that they will not take part in the election if Ahmadinejad is not a candidate. Nonetheless, because of his expressed opposition to the general approach of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad is unlikely to be qualified by the Guardian Council. ISNA said one should wait to see how he played his popularity card.
Yet, surprises can happen regardless of restrictions that narrow people's choices, ISNA noted. Mohammad Khatami's victory in 1997 and Ahmadinejad’s in 2005 took many, including political analysts, by surprise.