The Race is on for Iran's Next President

Supporters cheer during a campaign rally for reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian at Afrasiabi Stadium in Tehran on June 23, 2024 ahead of the upcoming Iranian presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Supporters cheer during a campaign rally for reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian at Afrasiabi Stadium in Tehran on June 23, 2024 ahead of the upcoming Iranian presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
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The Race is on for Iran's Next President

Supporters cheer during a campaign rally for reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian at Afrasiabi Stadium in Tehran on June 23, 2024 ahead of the upcoming Iranian presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Supporters cheer during a campaign rally for reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian at Afrasiabi Stadium in Tehran on June 23, 2024 ahead of the upcoming Iranian presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Six candidates have been approved by Iran's theocracy to run in Friday’s presidential election to replace the late President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash with several other officials in May.
Among them, Iran’s parliament speaker stands out as the most recognizable figure. A little-known politician and heart surgeon is also on the ballot. He is the only reformist while the others are more skewed toward hard-liners who back Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei without question and challenge the West, The Associated Press said.
And if previous elections are a guide to Iranian politics, several candidates could drop out in the final days before the vote to coalesce around a unity candidate.
Meanwhile, authorities are not urging the public to vote as vocally as they have in the past, particularly after a parliamentary election earlier in the year that saw the lowest turnout since the country's 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Here's a look at the candidates:
Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi: Ghazizadeh Hashemi, 53, served as one of Raisi’s vice presidents and as the head of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs. He ran in the 2021 presidential election and received just under 1 million votes, coming in last place. In debates so far, he's urged the country to continue to follow the policies of Raisi and insisted that Iran does not need foreign investment to succeed, despite the widespread economic challenges the nation now faces.
Saeed Jalili: The 58-year-old Jaili is a hard-line politician and former senior nuclear negotiator. He ran in Iran's 2013 presidential election and registered in 2021 before withdrawing to support Raisi. Current CIA director Bill Burns, who dealt with Jalili in negotiations in the past, has described him as “stupefyingly opaque” in talks. He got the nickname “The Living Martyr” after losing a leg in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war. He maintains that Iran doesn't need to negotiate over its nuclear program with the West. Though he is seen as maintaining close ties to Khamenei, he's not considered to be a front-runner. His campaign largely has focused on rural voters.
Masoud Pezeshkian: A 69-year-old heart surgeon, Pezeshkian is the only reformist candidate among the hard-line figures seeking the presidency. He's said he'd want to renegotiate with the West to try and restart some version of the 2015 nuclear deal. He's put the need for the deal in economic terms, saying Iran needs to communicate with the world. Iran's former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who served under the relative-moderate President Hassan Rouhani and helped strike the nuclear deal, has backed him. However, analysts believe Pezeshkian would need a heavy turnout to win — which is unlikely, given the current apathy gripping the nation. His campaign has so far focused on the youth vote, women and Iran's ethnic minorities.
Mostafa Pourmohammadi: Pourmohammadi, 64, is the only Shiite cleric running in the election. He served as interior minister under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and later as justice minister under Rouhani. In 2006, the United States State Department referred to Pourmohammadi as a “notorious human rights violator” for a leading role in the 1988 mass execution of several thousand political prisoners at Tehran's notorious Evin prison. The State Department also linked him to the so-called “chain murders” of activists and others in the 1990s. He insisted the next president must deal with the world and criticized Iran's arming of Russia in the war in Ukraine — not because of the killing of civilians, but because he felt Tehran wasn't getting enough back from Moscow for its support. His campaign likely is counting on the backing of clerics and traditionalists.
Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf: The Iranian parliament speaker, Qalibaf, 62, is the highest-ranking official within the theocracy to be seeking the presidency. Analysts suggest he's the front-runner in the campaign, with Jalili as a second. Qalibaf is a former Tehran mayor with close ties to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Many remember that Qalibaf — as a former Guard general — was part of a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief. Qalibaf maintains that he, as a strong manager, can save Iran from the crisis, borrowing from recent comments made by Khamenei. Qalibaf has focused on the middle class, as well as promising more cash handouts for the poor.
Alireza Zakani: The current mayor of Tehran, Zakani, 58, withdrew from the 2021 presidential election to back Raisi. Zakani has said he believes Iran can neutralize the effects of international sanctions but should pursue a diplomatic solution. He is a hard-liner who has repeatedly criticized reformists and moderates within Iran's political system, wants to see Iran stop using the dollar as a benchmark currency, and has called for Iran to create more value-added products from its oil to boost revenue. He has promised free healthcare for women and old people, as well as cash payments to poor people and reviving Iran's currency, the rial. However, he's offered no details on how he plans to accomplish these goals.



Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
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Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)

Internet and mobile data services are still down despite apparent calm in Bangladesh following a verdict that scaled back a controversial quota system for government jobs after weeks of relentless protests that turned deadly.
The government has also declared Monday a public holiday, with only essential services running. This comes after a curfew with a shoot-on-sight order was installed days earlier and military personnel could be seen patrolling the capital and other areas, The Associated Press said.
The South Asian country witnessed clashes between the police and mainly student protesters demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.
The violence has killed more than a hundred people, according to at least four local newspapers. Authorities have not so far shared official figures for deaths. On Thursday, communications were cut off as tensions escalated.
There was no immediate violence reported on Monday morning after the Supreme Court ordered the veterans’ quota to be cut to 5%, with 93% of jobs allocated on merit, the day before. The remaining 2% will be set aside for members of ethnic minorities as well as transgender and disabled people.
On Sunday night, some student protesters urged the government to restore internet services. Hasnat Abdullah, a coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, told the Associated Press that they were withdrawing their calls for a complete shutdown, which they attempted to impose last week.
“But we are issuing an ultimatum for 48 hours to stop the digital crackdown and restore internet connectivity,” he said, adding that security officials deployed at various universities should be withdrawn, student dormitories reopened and steps taken so students can return to their campuses safely. Abdullah also said they wanted the government to end the curfew and ensure the country was back to normal within two days.
Students have also demanded some university officials to step down after failing to protect campuses. Sarjis Alam, another coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, said that they would continue with their protests if all their demands weren't met. “We cannot step back from our movement like a coward,” he added.
Another key organizer of the student protests, Nahid Islam, told reporters that the internet shutdown had disrupted their ability to communicate and alleged that authorities were trying to create divisions among protesters. “I am mentally traumatized ... our unity is being destroyed,” he said.
The US Embassy in the capital Dhaka described Sunday the situation as “extremely volatile” and “unpredictable,” adding that guns, tear gas and other weapons have been used in the vicinity of the embassy. They said the Bangladeshi army had been deployed and urged Americans to be vigilant, avoid large crowds and reconsider travel plans.
The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that the main opposition groups boycotted. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.
Protesters had argued the quota system was discriminatory and benefited supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and wanted it replaced by a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect regardless of political affiliation.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protests, vowing to organize its own demonstrations as many of its supporters joined the student-led protests.
The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures.