With nominations now closed for the May 19 presidential election in Iran, the likely shape of the contest is beginning to emerge.
Economic issues are likely to be the main sparring ground for the reformist and conservative candidates, reads an article published by Forbes.
A total of 1,636 candidates have registered to run, but the Guardians Council, which vets all candidates, is likely to disqualify the vast majority of them.
The key test will be whether it chooses to block any of the more prominent figures from running. The final slate of candidates is expected to be revealed on April 26 or 27.
The main contenders can be roughly divided up into reformists such as President Hassan Rouhani and conservative or principlist candidates such as Ebrahim Raiesi, a former prosecutor-general and current custodian of the Imam Reza (PBUH) shrine in Mashhad.
Alongside those two frontrunners, on the reformist slate are First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, who is thought to have registered as a fallback option in case Rouhani is barred from competing by the Guardians Council.
Other principlist candidates include former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is widely tipped to be blocked by the council, his former vice president, Hamid Baqaei, and Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
The economy is likely to be the most pressing theme in the campaign, which will officially run from April 28 to May 17. In particular, much of the debate is likely to focus on the gains–or lack of them–to have come as a result of the nuclear agreement Iran signed with the US and other world powers in July 2015.
A rebound in economic growth and reining in the runaway inflation inherited from the previous administration are considered to be the main achievements of the Rouhani administration.
Not to mention the 2015 nuclear deal, which led to the lifting of sanctions the following year and opened Iran’s economy to the world.
Nonetheless, Iran’s foreign trade still remains impeded by remaining US sanctions, mainly pertaining to the banking sector.
According to the Central Bank of Iran’s latest report, the Iranian economy grew 11.9% during the three quarters of the last Iranian year (started March 20, 2016).
Without taking the oil sector into account, the growth rate stands at 1.9%, the report shows.
The oil sector expanded 65.4%, thanks to ramped up crude production and increased exports following the lifting of sanctions.
The sectors of agriculture, industries, mining and services grew by 4.2%, 5.8%, 0.2% and 2.4% respectively while construction saw a negative growth of 17.1% during the nine months.
Iran’s inflation rate went below 10% for the rolling year ending June 20. This was the first time the country was experiencing single-digit inflation in about a quarter century.