The Iranian presidential election taking place on June 14 is being regarded with skepticism by the Iranian public, but the controversy surrounding the election itself nevertheless has the potential to spark radical changes in Iran’s diplomatic relationship with the the rest of the world. The 12-member Guardian Council, under Iran’s constitution, personally chooses who can run in the presidential elections and who cannot. Candidates who are or have reflected anti-establishment views are immediately disqualified by the council. Six experts in Islamic law, faqihs, and six jurists make up the Guardian Council. All these members have been approved by the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Alireza Nader, an analyst for the RAND Corporation, puts it, "All of the approved candidates are either loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei or are mostly irrelevant ... this appears to be a presidential selection rather than an election." Thus, hope for positive diplomatic changes from any single candidate’s election is largely futile. However, the election may act as a catalyst that could potentially bring about the sort of political upheaval that could eventually overturn the Iranian elite running the country and mark the beginning of a new democratic role for the Iranian people.
A variety of candidates have been banned from running in this election, but the two who would have been the most influential are Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, Ahmadinejad's close political ally and former chief of staff, and ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie was banned from running in Iran's election largely due to his close relationship with current president Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad has been in icy waters with the political elite of Iran, and the Guardian Council apparently did not want Ahmadinejad to hold any control through a loyal successor. Rafsanjani, on the other hand, has publicly criticized Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election and the government's handling of protests.
The candidates who remain are all supportive of Khamenei, but some more so than others. The candidates include Ali Akbar Velayati, a conservative and close political confidant to Khamenei, and Mohammed Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran and one of the front-runners in the election. Other candidates include Hasan Rowhani, a Supreme National Security Council representative who deals with the issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and Mohammad Reza Aref. Aref is the single most liberal candidate on the docket, and his platform of warmer relationships with the West and reformist mindset make him one of the most appealing candidates to much of the Iranian population, as evidenced by online polling. Mohsen Rezaei is running, a former chief commander of the Revolutionary Guard, as well as Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a member of the Expediency Council. The public views Adel as a strong conservative voice. Saeed Jalili is also running and has been at the forefront of the international negotiations behind Iran’s nuclear program. The last candidate running is Mohammad Gharazi, a former oil and telecommunications minister. Gharazi’s platform is based on economic policies and keeping inflation under control.