On May 19, Iranians will go to the polls to choose their president for the 12th time since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979. The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, will almost certainly be one of the contenders, once Iran’s powerful Guardian Council confirms his candidacy. The upcoming elections will inevitably be a referendum, in part, on Rouhani’s track record, especially his promise to open up Iran’s economy after the nuclear agreement that lifted international sanctions.
Unlike the American system, with its excruciatingly long election seasons, the official Iranian election calendar is deliberately short. The week-long official registration of candidates won’t begin until April 11. The most critical pre-election hurdle will soon follow: the vetting of the candidates by the Guardian Council. On April 26, the council will release its final list of viable candidates, which will set off a busy three-week campaign.
The way the Guardian Council operates is increasingly at odds with the makeup of Iran’s political elite, which includes many different overlapping circles of power. Put simply, they run the gamut from conservatives to moderates and reformists. These ideological markers shift depending on the issue—the economy, cultural freedom, the role of women—but they all abide by the tenets of the Islamic Republic.