With a fresh round of nuclear talks underway between Iran and the so-called P5+1, and the Iranian elections looming, the question on many an international observers’ mind is - is there anyone worse than Ahmadinejad? The current president has been the bane of successive U.S. governments, with his stance on nuclear power and stirring of anti-Western feeling.
But in his second term as president, even Ahmadinejad wasn’t hardcore enough for the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the pair fell out. That tiff, and moreover the Republic's two-term limit - a technicality that precludes a third term for the notorious head of state - has ensured that the president is left out of the new elections in June. He has not even had the chance to influence the vote, with the organization moved to the new ‘Central Election Board’ and away from the government.
So who is left in the running? A series of seasoned politicians for one, most with views that make Ahmadinejad look like a softie and pasts murkier than a CIA drone strike. But among the ex-intelligence chiefs and Revolutionary Guards are a few more intellectual types who would like to see Iran shake-off it’s ‘pariah state’ image once and for all.
Despite former liberal candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi being booted out of the competition for daring to claim that elections might be a little less than transparent and fair, others have come to the fore.
Mostafa Kavakebian is the so-called ‘reformist’ candidate and will be looking to pull together those elusive liberal votes come ballot time. But his base could be divided if American-Iranian, Hooshang Amirahmadi, is allowed back in the race.
Technically banned for his U.S. citizenship, Amirahmadi is giving the outside world some hope for the future with his radical campaign policies of giving America a chance. But despite the lofty ideals, most ordinary Iranians are looking for the same things as everyone else in their choice of president: some sensible economic policies that will put bread on the table.
Those government ministers who were booted out by Ahmadinejad during the most recent cabinet kerfuffle have been pushing their economic credentials hard. So when all is said and done, it looks like another term of much the same when it comes to the Persian state.
Who's your bet on for the race to lead the Islamic Republic of Iran? Will it be a cleric, an uber-conservative, a member of the Old Guard or something radically new?