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Khamenei Confidant Dismisses Almost All Presidential Candidates, Except One

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Khamenei-funded hardline daily newspaper Kayhan and his representative at the newspaper, who usually speaks for the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has ruled out the suitability of nearly all reformist and conservative candidates for the presidential election in June, while expressing positive views about Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi who has not yet announced his candidacy. 

Shariatmadari spoke about the elections at a virtual meeting with a selected group of Iranian journalists and media managers on Sunday, possibly in a bid to reflect Khamenei's views about the candidates, or to present his own ideas as the Leader’s representative at the hardline daily.

Although he spoke about all the candidates and the presidential election in general, he particularly addressed the candidacy of three individuals: Raeesi, Saeed Mohammad (an advisor to the IRGC commander in chief) and Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeyni.

Shariatmadari’s point of reference for evaluating candidates was Khamenei’s New Year speech when he said that the next president must make Iran “powerful” and emphasized high turnout in June.

Shariatmadari drew the conclusion that: "We should elect someone who can solve problems. Some people in the past had so many claims [to leadership] but they were not efficient and competent. We in the media should expose those who want to deceive the people."

He said: "So many people in the revolutionary front have announced their candidacy. All of them are good people but being good is not enough. Some of them have a good voters base and we should consider that."

"As far as Mr. Raeesi's candidacy is concerned, there are two groups of people in Iran and both support Raeesi. One group says he should run and believe his candidacy can lead to a consensus among conservatives. Others are worried that if he is elected president, the Judiciary, where he has been so efficiently fighting financial corruption," might lose an in important leader, Shariatmadari said.

Although he insisted that Raeesi has no negative record in his career, many people in the 2017 presidential election mentioned Raeesi's role in the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Nonetheless, Shariatmadari warned that "anyone standing against Raeesi is certainly linked to financially corrupt individuals." He also reminded that in 2017 Raeesi won over 16 million votes with only 40 days of campaigning.

Shariatmadari also spoke about Hassan Khomeini and said, "Those who have groomed him for presidency want to take advantage of Ayatollah Khomeini's status."

Expressing his views about Saeed Mohammad, who has a solid voters base according to posts on Telegram, Instagram and Twitter, Shariatmadari said "he has a successful track record, but his experience as a public servant has been rather brief and his acquaintance with the country's situation is debatable."

He also said those candidates who have close relatives in the US or UK should not run. Shariatmadari was possibly referring to individuals such as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who have said they are not going to run.

Khamenei’s hardliner confidant insisted that candidates should be cognizant of their limited powers as president and should not complain once elected. Rouhani and former presidents have often found themselves unable to make decisions and take actions if Khamenei and his close allies did not like a particular policy.

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