It might come as a surprise for those not overly familiar with the complex political system in Iran, but presidential elections are hotly contested. Victorious candidates are often rather low-profile politicians beforehand, or at least not very well-known by the public. Despite the election of Rafsanjani in 1989 and 1993, this was certainly the case for Mohammad Khatami in 1995 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a decade later in 2005.

The President is limited in his remit by the fact that not only is foreign policy in the hands of the Supreme Leader, but also that the executive has no control over either the security forces or the judiciary - both of whom are loyal to the Supreme Leader; Presidents remain the second most important figure in Iranian politics. However, the identity of the President does make an important difference as regards both domestic politics and Iran’s standing in the world, and all eyes are rightly on the outcome of today’s elections.

The Build Up
More than 1,600 candidates registered to run for Iran’s presidency by the 16th of April 2017 registration closing date. While it is not unusual to see Iranians of all walks of life registering their candidacies in great numbers, a select few are vetted by the Guardian Council and allowed to campaign. On the 20th of April, the Interior Ministry released the final list of the (six) vetted candidates – incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, his Vice-President Eshagh Jahangiri, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, custodian of the wealthy Imam Reza Shrine Ebrahim Raisi, former Industry Minister Hashemi-Taba, and former conservative Culture Minister Aqa-Mirsalim.

All six candidates participated in three televised debates (28th April 2017, 5th May 2017 and 12th May 2017), a mandatory step since the first televised debates were organised for the 2005 presidential election. However, the format of the debate – each candidate has four minutes to answer a question and then the remaining five have two minutes each to comment or criticise – has not really allowed the public to truly understand a candidate’s platform.