About Marianne Bøe

Marianne Bøe is an historian of religion at the Centre for Women's and Gender Studies, University of Bergen

The 2013 presidential election in Iran: Big issues lurking in the shadow

On 14 June, the next presidential election will take place in Iran. Last time in 2009 the election lead to huge demonstrations, and since then the country has gradually moved further into a crisis of legitimacy over the future of the Islamic Republic. So what are the big issues at stake this time around?

The Islamic Republic of Iran is currently caught in conflict-ridden times. The country is facing international sanctions and war threats due to its nuclear programme, not to forget the high inflation and economic crisis that create hardship for the people. Moreover, Iran is also dealing with an internal power struggle over who holds the best solution for the future of the Republic. The conflict is not only played out between the state and the opposition, but also within the state. On the one hand, the current president Ahmadinejad has served his second and final term of presidency, but is still very eager to name his follower. The Supreme Leader Khamenei, on the other hand, is fed up with having an uncontainable president and is likely to cement his solitary authority once and for all. In October last year, he even introduced the idea of implementing a radical constitutional amendment to eliminate the position of the president altogether, saying: “If deemed appropriate, Iran could do without a president”.


The Islamic Republic of Iran is caught in conflict-ridden times. The 2013 election can set a new course for the country. (Photo: Marianne Bøe)

The big political topics concerning international relations and internal power struggles are likely to overshadow the presidential campaign. Concurrently, the political opposition is severely weakened. The opposition suffers a lack of leadership as Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the leaders of the Green Movement (Jonbesh-e sabz), have been kept in house arrest since 2011. Moreover, a range of activists has been put under surveillance, arrested, and forced into exile over the last couple of years. As a result, the election is likely to stand between different conservative candidates with affiliation to either Khamenei or Ahmadinejad. Still, which candidates will pass the vetting of the Guardian Council remains unknown for the time being.

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