Six-man race

Six-man race

Six candidates have been cleared to stand for president in Iranian elections in May. Current President Hassan Rouhani is among those standing - no female candidates were allowed - but he faces tough competition. Here are the key figures in the race.

Six-man race

Conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, is the surprise candidate of this election. With a background in the judiciary, he has kept in the shadows and is not widely known by Iranians. He has close personal ties to the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard and as the favoured candidate of the hardliners, he is likely to be Mr Rouhani's key challenger.

Mr Raisi holds a PhD in Islamic law and had a stellar rise through the ranks of the judiciary, becoming deputy prosecutor for the capital Tehran at the age of just 25.

In 1988 he was one of four judges who sat on the so-called "death commissions" deciding the fates of thousands of opposition prisoners who were executed as their sentences came to an end. The executions are one of the most notorious and taboo subjects in Iranian post-revolutionary history and have never been officially investigated.

The issue is unlikely to be raised in the state media during the election campaign, but is already being widely discussed on social media and by Persian-language media outlets based abroad.

In March 2016 Mr Raisi was appointed head of one of Iran's most important and wealthy religious foundations - Astan Quds Razavi - with responsibility for overseeing the country's holiest Shia shrine in the city of Mashhad. It is a position of great prestige and influence, and led many to conclude that Mr Raisi was being groomed as a future successor to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Some observers see his run for presidency as a dry run for his next job. If true, this is not a risk-free move. If he loses after a bitter campaign, it won't be easy to crown him as new leader any time soon.

Little is known about Mr Raisi's private life except that his father-in-law is Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the hardline Friday prayers leader in the city of Mashhad.

Six-man race

There are three other contenders, although it's not clear if any of them will stay in the race to the final hurdle.

Withdrawing in favour of another candidate is a common tactic in Iranian elections. Reformist Eshagh Jahangiri, is the current vice-president. Many observers believe he is there to support his boss, Mr Rouhani, and to provide another moderate voice - especially during TV debates where the rhetoric can often get quite hostile.

Six-man race

Mostafa Mirsalim is an ultra-conservative figure who is supported by some of the most traditional conservatives. He was minister of culture in the mid-90s and was known for his harsh treatment of the independent media, closing a number of reformist publications.

Six-man race

Mostafa Hashemitaba, is another lesser known figure. He was a minister of industries and mining in the 1980s and later became the head of National Olympic Committee of Iran. He tried his chance for presidency in 2001 but finished 10th out of 10 candidates, winning just 28,000 out of the 28 million votes cast in that election.



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