Yesterday, the approved candidates for Iran's upcoming election became public. They consist of four candidates, two conservatives: Ahmadinejad and Rezai and two reformers: Mousavi and Karroubi. Surprisingly, the only cleric among the four is Karroubi. The 2005 ballot included eight candidates. In the June 12th election if no candidate reaches the 50% mark then there will be a runoff election on June 19th. Mir-Hossein Mousavi has broke precedent and is campaigning distinctly for the women's vote, and he has put his wife, Dr. Zahra Rahnavard front and center in his campaign.
Dr. Zahra Rahnavard
An accomplished scholar and adviser to former President Khatami, Dr. Rahnavard promises to put women's rights front and center in a Mousavi administration. She has also been positively covered here by Guardian writer Massoumeh Torfeh. Here is another short article on her campaign efforts: May 21st
This election strategy could change the dynamic if the women's vote went significantly over 50% for Mousavi. 65% of the University students in Iran are women. It provides the potential for a win in the first round if reform minded Iranians give most of their support to Mousavi; at the very least it will propel Mousavi to the runoff election. The risk of this position lies in the possible reaction of conservative/traditionalists who may strongly oppose such reforms and support Ahmadinejad or Rezai. Strategically, it would seem that this solidified opposition may be split in the first round between the two Conservatives, but they would likely rally behind whichever Conservative receives the most votes and advances to the runoff election.
While Mousavi now belongs to the Reform coalition, when he served as Prime Minister during the Iran/Iraq War he was a Conservative. If the Conservative vote splits between Ahmadinejad and Rezai, then it could open the way for a first round win. Because of the economy, Ahmadinejad is under attack from all angles, and campaigning as an incumbent might be very difficult for him. The mere fact that there is another approved Conservative on the ballot seems to indicate a serious loss of confidence in Ahmadinejad among the Guardian Council members. The fourth candidate, Karroubi, while his reform positions certainly appeal to many Iranians, his position as a cleric, may work against him. The President is the highest office recently held by a non-cleric. 50% of the population was born after the Revolution, and many more of them are voting now as opposed to 2009. They tend to be less religious, and they want more freedoms in their daily lives--especially those who live in the major cities.
A series of televised debates are set to take place between two candidates at a time. The current schedule can be seen here: TV Debate Schedule
The short campaign may be over three weeks from tomorrow. One has to hope a new direction will emerge out of this election for Iran. It certainly will be interesting to watch.