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DUBAI: Iranians will choose between hard-line candidates in early presidential elections on Friday following the death of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash.
Only six candidates out of more than 80 candidates survived vetting by the tough Guardian Council, a panel of clerics and lawyers overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state affairs. Before the elections, two stubborn candidates dropped out of the race.
The president, who runs the government on a day-to-day basis and has particular responsibility for Iran’s economy, is ultimately accountable to the Supreme Leader.
The following are brief profiles of the three hardliners and one moderate candidate for the upcoming election:

MOHAMMAD BAQER QALIBAF
A former commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an ally of Khamenei, Qalibaf is the current speaker of the hard-line parliament. He previously ran twice unsuccessfully for president and was forced to withdraw from a third bid in 2017 to avoid a split hard vote in Raisi’s initial failed presidential bid.
In 2005, Qalibaf resigned from the Guard to run for president. After an unsuccessful campaign, he assumed the position of mayor of Tehran with the approval of the supreme leader, a position he held for 12 years.
In 2009, Qalibaf took credit as mayor of Tehran for helping to quell months of bloody unrest that rocked the establishment after a presidential election that opposition candidates said was rigged to ensure the re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He is known to civil rights activists as someone who suppressed protests as head of the national police, personally beat protesters in 1999 and also played an active role in quelling riots in 2003. Qalibaf did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

SAEED JALILI
Jalili is a hardline diplomat who lost his right leg in the 1980s while fighting for the Guards in the Iran-Iraq war. Jalili, who holds a doctorate in political science, has declared himself a devout follower of Iran’s “velayat-e faqih,” or rule of supreme jurisprudence, the system of Islamic government that provides the basis for Khamenei’s position.
Jalili, who was appointed by Khamenei, served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for five years starting in 2007, automatically making him the chief nuclear negotiator. Jalili also served four years in Khamenei’s office and was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2013 presidential election.
A former deputy foreign minister, Jalili was appointed by Khamenei in 2013 as a member of the Expediency Council, a body that mediates disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council.

MASSOUD PEZEŠKIAN
An Iranian lawmaker of Azeri descent, Pezeshkian is the only moderate candidate approved by the Guardian Council and supported by the pro-reform camp. His prospects depend on attracting millions of disillusioned voters who have stayed at home since 2020.
A doctor by profession, Pezeshkian served as Minister of Health under reformist President Mohammad Khatami from 2001 to 2005 and has held a seat in parliament since 2008.
Pezeshkian has openly criticized the Islamic Republic for its lack of transparency over the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman in custody, which sparked months of unrest.
Pezeshkian was banned from participating in the 2021 presidential election.

MOSTAFA POURMOHAMMADI
The only cleric in the race, Pourmohammadi served as interior minister during former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first term from 2005 to 2008.
He was deputy minister of intelligence from 1990 to 1999, and rights groups alleged that he played a role in the assassinations of several prominent dissident intellectuals in Iran in 1998. He has not commented on the allegations, but a 1998 Ministry of Intelligence statement said: “A small number of irresponsible, deviant and rogue Ministry agents, who were most likely puppets of others, committed these assassinations that were in the interests of foreigners.
In a 2005 report, Human Rights Watch documented Pourmohammadi’s alleged role in the execution of hundreds of political prisoners in the Iranian capital in 1988.
Pourmohammadi has never publicly addressed allegations of his role in the so-called “death commission” in 1988, which included religious judges, prosecutors and intelligence ministry officials who oversaw the executions.

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