Eight candidates for Iran’s presidency began their three-week long campaigns over the weekend, holding almost daily events and dominating the country’s radio and television airwaves. Christians should continue to pray for Iran’s future during this strategic period.
The eight competitors were approved to run for the office of president by Iran’s Guardian Council in late May, whilst 678 hopefuls were deemed unsuitable and barred. One man in the running is Mohammad Reza Aref, a former vice-president and technology minister, who is seen as the most reformist candidate. His primary policies concern unemployment and inflation. Some Iranian websites are reporting that another of the eight candidates, Hassan Rouhani, a self-proclaimed ‘moderate’ is reform-minded and enjoys the support of two of the country's former presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was amongst those barred by the Guardian Council.
Hassan Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator, and the only cleric amongst the eight candidates. His speeches have focused on repairing Iran’s international image and addressing the concerns of the country’s ethnic and tribal minorities as well as those of non-Muslims and women, themes that have rarely entered Iranian political discourse in recent years. He has also called for a "rights charter" and support for "freedom of expression, thought and discussion". Whether these are issues of genuine concern, or mere rhetoric to secure votes from these alienated sectors of society and reformist voters remains to be seen.
On 14 June the polls will open, and in August a new president will succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, given that Iran can hardly boast of a reputation for thriving and robust democratic processes, many Iranians fear that the will of the people will not prevail. They fear rather that the outcome of the election has already been decided. Therefore, let us pray in earnest for a democratic election and for hope for the people of Iran.
• A peaceful, democratic and transparent election: for the voice of the people to be heard
• Reform-minded Iranians to vote and encourage others to vote
• The new president to change the repressive climate for religious, and other, minorities