Of the 529 people who registered to participate in the Iranian presidential election on June 18, only seven obtained permission from the Guardian Council.
The Guardian Council is responsible for vetting the candidates and deciding who will stand in most elections in Iran. It is made up of six Islamic jurists, appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six lawyers, appointed by the head of the judiciary and chosen by parliament.
Among the candidates banned for the Council of Guardians from standing in the next election are former Iranian parliament spokesman Ali Larijani, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and current Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
Five of the seven candidates who were approved by the council are hard-line supporters: the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi; former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili; the secretary of the Council of Opportunity, Mohsen Rezaei, former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); and MPs Alireza Zakani and Amirhossein Qazizadeh-Hashemi.
The other two candidates who will be on the ballot on June 18 are Abdolnaser Hemmati, technocrat and former governor of the Central Bank of Iran, and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, head of Iran’s national sports organization and former governor of Isfahan.
Among these seven candidates, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi is the main contender. Many Iranian observers expect him not only to be elected Iran’s next president, but also to eventually become the country’s next supreme leader.
The Guardian Council has carefully organized elections to produce results acceptable to Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei for decades. Nonetheless, the council’s decision to bar a large number of prominent and objectively qualified candidates from standing in the next election was still unprecedented.
The council has increased its level of control over the candidate list because the Iranian establishment believes the Islamic Republic is currently at a crossroads and as a close ally of Khamenei, Mehdi Tayeb, recently declared, it is necessary to “purify the revolution”.
To understand what they mean by “purifying the revolution” we need to examine Khamenei’s political ideology.
In the late 1990s, Khamenei described what he believed to be the five essential stages of a successful Islamic revolution. The first step is the Islamic revolution itself. The second step is the establishment of an Islamic regime, which should be followed by the establishment of an Islamic government. The fourth step is the establishment of an Islamic society, which he said would pave the way for the establishment of an Islamic civilization – one that could serve as a model and leader for all Muslim-majority countries across the world.
According to Khamenei, the first two links in this chain were completed in Iran with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the formation of the Islamic Republic. But Iran has not yet completed the third link: the establishment of an “Islamic government”.
So, right now, Khamenei’s main political goal is to ensure that the country is ruled by a truly Islamic government that is loyal to him and that is true to his vision for the country.
To achieve this goal, he published a manifesto in 2019, and has since worked to rejuvenate the regime and prepare the optimal conditions for the establishment of an “Islamic government”. He has held unelected but very politically influential positions in the armed forces, justice, religious organizations and the media with young and staunch hardliners. With the help of the Guardian Council, he also filled the Iranian parliament with his young and zealous supporters in the legislative elections of 2020.
Next month’s presidential election is therefore the final step in Khamenei’s efforts to establish an ideal “Islamic government”.
Khamenei was elected Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989. Since then he has worked with four administrations: Rafsanjani administration (1989-1996), Khatami administration (1997-2004), Ahmadinejad administration (2005- 2013) and the Rouhani administration (2013-2020).
Of these four governments, the one closest to Khamenei’s ideal of “Islamic rule” was that of Ahmadinejad – at least during his first term in office. Ahmadinejad worked in harmony with the Supreme Leader between 2005 and 2009, but the two ultimately fell out during his second term as president due to political power struggles.
The Supreme Leader is now working to ensure the establishment of a new administration that would pursue policies and strategies similar to Ahmadinejad’s, but remain loyal and subservient to the Supreme Leader until the end.
And, indeed, the electoral campaign of the top candidate Raisi is led by veterans of Ahmadinejad’s administration, such as Ali Nikzad, who was Minister of Transport and Housing under Ahmadinejad between 2009-2011 and Reza Taghipour, who was his Minister of Communications. between 2009-2012.
As was the case during Ahmadinejad’s presidency, political appointments for a future Raisi administration would also come from the more conservative layers of Iranian society, and more specifically the IRGCs and the Oppressed Basij Organization, a paramilitary group that works for IRGCs.
The IRGC and the Basij are not only home to the most fervent supporters of the Islamic Revolution and its ideals, but they are also the Supreme Leader ‘s largest and most influential base of support.
While Khamenei was successful in securing the formation of a new administration that would occupy the most politically relevant positions in the country with hard-line members of the IRGC and the Basij, the growing rift between the Iranian government and the Iranian “deep state” controlled by the Supreme Leader will finally disappear. Such an administration, in Khamenei’s eyes, would represent a true “Islamic government” and would be more successful in implementing policies that would advance the goals of the revolution.
According to Khamenei, once established, an Islamic government would work to complete the Islamization of Iranian society – the fourth step in the Supreme Leader’s long-term plan.
Since the 1979 revolution, Iranian society has experienced two waves of Islamization – the first in 1980 triggered by the closure of universities and the second, in 2005, triggered by the election of Ahmadinejad to the presidency. If an “Islamic government” loyal to the Supreme Leader is formed as planned on June 18, Iran will undoubtedly experience a third wave of Islamization.
As seen in the first two waves, the third wave of Islamization in Iran is likely to have three main manifestations: a deeper integration of Islamic culture and values into daily and political life, a more vigorous struggle against Western influences on Iranian society and an increase in the influence and control of the Supreme Leader over all social and political groups in the country.
To achieve this, the new administration will have to resort to force, because today large segments of the Iranian population do not share the ideals and ambitions of the regime in power. The new administration will crack down on those in Iran who try to resist the regime’s restrictions on their lives and increase the pressure on young people and women – the two main groups that increasingly challenge the regime’s authority.
In terms of foreign policy, a new “Islamic government” will strive to achieve all the long-term goals of the Islamic Republic, such as increasing Iran’s influence in the region and exporting the Islamic revolution to others. countries by supporting militant groups.
If the new government ends up including many IRGC and Basij members as expected, cooperation between Iran’s foreign ministry and IRGC will also grow stronger, allowing the country to pursue its foreign policy agenda more effectively.
Anti-Americanism will also be a defining feature of any future “Islamic government” supported by Khamenei.
Anti-Americanism is at the heart of the Iranian regime and the identity of the Supreme Leader. So any new government backed by the Supreme Leader would likely continue to antagonize the United States and its allies while moving closer to Russia and China. Establishing better relations with the countries of Africa and South America would also be a priority for the new administration for political and economic reasons.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 82, wants his regime and ideals to survive him. He not only wants the spirit of the 1979 revolution to endure, but also for Iran to eventually become an Islamic power and a leader of the Muslim world. Only time will tell if the Supreme Leader will succeed in overseeing the formation of an ideal Islamic government which is crucial to the success of his long-term political agenda. But for now, it looks like Khamenei is well positioned to take the next step in his revolutionary plan.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.