Previewing the Iranian Election


Jun 11, 2013

identity checks in the 2009 Iranian election

photo by BBC World Service/

Iran's June 14, 2013, election will take place in the shadow of the turbulent 2009 presidential election, after which Iran witnessed the largest protests since the 1979 revolution.

In the latest RAND Perspective, “Iran's 2013 Presidential Election: Its Meaning and Implications,” senior international policy analyst Alireza Nader examines the implications of the election, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's objectives, the regime's electoral strategy, the competing factions and personalities, and the potential implications for the United States, especially concerning Iran's nuclear program.

Among Nader's key findings:

  • Ayatollah Khamenei is concerned with the election's legitimacy, but his goal above all else is to ensure a stable election that produces a president loyal to him personally.
  • The only serious potential challenge to Khamenei, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been removed from the field of candidates, and this could help Khamenei further consolidate his power.
  • The election could theoretically lead to a limited reduction of tensions between Iran and the international community, but Khamenei's monopolization of power will likely decrease Iran's flexibility on the nuclear program, depending on U.S. and Israeli policies.
  • No matter who is elected president, the Islamic Republic is likely to continue its evolution into an authoritarian political system dominated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards.

“The 2009 election demonstrated the extent to which Khamenei and his supporters were willing to cling to absolute power,” Nader wrote. The Iranian regime seeks to produce a 2013 election that at least appears to be popular and legitimate; but more importantly, Khamenei desires a president who will act as his prime minister, rather than as an independent power.

“The ruling establishment has successfully marginalized the reformists and has sidelined Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad. This has resulted in what appears to be a presidential selection rather than an election. The Iranian people will largely serve as spectators,” Nader wrote.

— Joe Dougherty