Analysis. Tehran will hold elections on June 18 with a president whose popular support has been halved by poor economic performance, largely due to US sanctions. His conservative opponent returns to the capital.

Ahmadinejad is circling a weak Rohani, who has 25% approval

Sunday was the first anniversary of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone in Baghdad airport with other Shiite militiamen. The Tehran leadership did not follow up on this provocation, limiting itself to launching some missiles against two US bases in Iraq.

The real collateral victims of Soleimani’s murder were the passengers of the Ukrainian airliner accidentally hit by two Pasdaran missiles on Jan. 8, 2020. Now, the families of the 176 victims (including 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians) will each receive $150,000 in compensation.

In four years in the White House, President Trump has repeatedly come to the brink of war with Tehran. However, the worst damage has been done to the economy of the Islamic Republic, by the scrapping of the nuclear agreement, the launching of new sanctions and embargo on Iranian oil.

As a result, in these four years, the Iranian currency (the rial) has lost 85% of its value. According to the IMF, inflation in Iran is at 34.2%, and unemployment is reported at 16.3% but is much higher, because the statistics office in Tehran considers those who work even one hour of work per week to be employed.

The Iranian economic system is inefficient, and corruption is widespread including at high levels of the political leadership, so much so that Rohani’s brother and advisor was sentenced to five years in prison and the TV series Aghazadeh, aired on Namava (Iran’s version of Netflix) and popular during the lockdown, shines a spotlight on the children of this corrupt elite.

While Rohani failed to implement reforms and deliver on electoral promises, it was because of a combination of factors. The consequence is that the Islamic Republic’s electorate has shifted to the right.

According to the telephone poll conducted by IranWire between Oct. 22 and 28 among 1,136 Iranians over the age of 18, Rohani has only 25% approval (in February 2016, he was at 42%). Forty six percent of Iranians wholly disapprove of his actions, a percentage that rises to 56% among college graduates.

This data is relevant: on Friday, June 18, Iranians will go to the polls to elect Rohani’s successor. According to the poll, the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in top spot, with 37% support. This is an overall figure: he enjoys the support of 50% of the eligible voters in rural areas and 33% of the inhabitants of urban areas; while 49% of those who do not have a university degree and only 19% of graduates said they would vote for him.

In the poll, former president Ahmadinejad is followed at a certain distance by the President of the Parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and mayor of Teheran, who is at 10%.

The support for the other candidates is irrelevant: Saeed Jalili, former secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security (3% of the vote); former Parliament speaker Ali Larijani (2%); and reformist politician Mohammadreza Aref (2%).

In addition to the polls, we will have to take into account the role of the Guardian Council, which has the power to disqualify undesirable candidates, and the impact of voter turnout.

A measure synonymous with the popular legitimacy of the institutions, the turnout is estimated by IranWire at 44%, a low percentage that reflects the conviction of most Iranians that they cannot contribute to solving the problems of their country with their vote.

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