TEHRAN — In typically organized Middle Eastern fashion, Iran officially has 686 registered presidential candidates for its upcoming election on June 14th. The playing field is wide open as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s second and final term comes to an end, and Iranians are eager to get to know the hopefuls before casting their votes, which may or may not be counted. The following guide is meant to introduce voters, as well as observers throughout the world, to the main candidates who have tossed their headscarves into the ring.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei is current President Ahmenijad’s Chief of Staff and close ally, and was publicly endorsed by Ahmadinejad on Sunday. Despite his close ties and generous backing, Mashaei and Ahmadinejad alike have very powerful enemies in Iranian conservatives.
Chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is one such conservative, a “principlist” who believes in implementing Islamic values more than the secular Mashaei. Jalili walks with a limp from an injury in the Iran-Iraq War, served as Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs, and, as he himself attests, “knows what to do with a nuke in his hands.”
Herman Cain, another prominent contender who registered Saturday, is fresh off a failed United States presidential bid but has assured enthusiastic Iranians that “the Cain Train never stops rolling.” Despite the numerous allegations of sexual harassment surrounding him, Mr. Cain is confident Iranians “see the need for the values of our Forefathers” and has gained recent popularity for his “999 Wives Plan.”
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is considered by many to be the candidate to beat in this election. Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997, and is believed to be the wealthiest man in Iran. He had pledged to build Iran while avoiding conflict with the US, and lost to Ahmadinejad in the final round of elections in 2005.
Dave Henderson, a recent graduate of Quinnipiac who lives on Long Island, has also determinedly entered the race. Dave already has throngs of supporters, but cautioned the public that, “while Iran is definitely a top choice, I’ve submitted my resume kind of everywhere.”
Other presidential hopefuls include Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Lindsay Lohan, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Stannis Baratheon, Silvio Berlusconi and a somewhat mysterious individual named “Joe Al-Biden.”
Unfortunately for many of the candidates, everyone running for president needs to pass a strict vetting process conducted by the Guardian Council, which is headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Supreme Leader Khamenei has feuded with Mashaei and Ahmadinejad for years, even once arresting Mashaei’s aides for summoning genies. The Guardian Council’s selection generally signals the end of the democratic process for Iranian voters, who might never get the opportunity to cast their vote for the Ayatollah.