Iran will be holding its 12th presidential election this May. The election is coming at a time when the regime is struggling with three very real and distinct crises.
The first is that the Supreme Leader Khamenei is suffering from prostate cancer and must designate a successor. Various sessions have been held with senior regime and IRGC officials, but no clear successor has been named.
The second is the shift in policy with the new Trump administration. Iran is feeling a sense of isolation on the international stage, as President Trump indicates that he is not willing to take anything off the table in dealing with Iran. He has also instituted new sanctions and has called the nuclear deal “the worst deal ever”.
Bi-partisan efforts to increase the sanctions on Iran and address the ballistic missile system are also a source of concern for Iran in its dealings with the U.S.
There is also no clear presidential challenger for Rouhani, although he lacks the support of Khamenei. The Supreme Leader is concerned about possible protests, similar to those that occurred in 2009. While Iran officials must be vetted and approved before they can be on the ballot, this may be a more difficult election to engineer.
While there is an attempt to create an appearance of two different factions in Iran, the reality is that all the members of the regime is focused on holding power and that can make their mentalities flexible. Domestic crackdowns have fanned the unrest among the population, along with continuing economic woes. Foreign spending in Syria, Yemen, and other areas within the Middle East.
Candidates for Iran’s presidential elections will register from April 11 to 16. The ultraconservative Guardian Council, which is directly or indirectly appointed by Khamenei, will weigh the candidates until the 27th. The main candidates must receive Khamenei’s approval, either explicit or implicit.
It was worth noting that the IRGC command, especially Quds Force chief Qassem Suleimani, are seeking candidacy for Ibrahim Reisi, who is also considered a potential successor for Khamenei. So if he registers, but fails to become president, then it could undermine him as a successor for Khamenei.
The election is therefore a challenging event for Khamenei and the regime. Those who support Khamenei and the IRGC are looking to see Rouhani replaced. In light of the possible designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, the IRGC is looking to consolidate its power within Iran.