Meir Javedanfar

Forecasting Iran’s Upcoming Elections

Iranian politics is notoriously difficult to predict. This is especially true with regards to elections, which these days are increasingly managed by the regime, as we found out in 2009.

However, it is important to try and see where things are likely to go in the elections, based on one’s own perceptions, assumptions and reading of the regime.

If you get it right, then great. If you get it wrong, then afterwards at least you have a reference point to go back to to see where and how you went wrong. What assumptions you should have made but didn’t, who in the regime you should have listened to instead, and what clues you missed (among other things).


So here is how I believe things will turn out in the upcoming Iranian elections.


If a clear winner is determined in the first round, it is my estimate that Qalibaf has the biggest chance of winning. Reason? because between the conservatives when it comes to being a technocrat, he is seen as being the most competent. On top of that, and more importantly, he has good relations with Khamanei and parts of IRGC senior leadership.

If there is no clear winner in the first round and elections go into a second round,

IF: Jalili is in the second round runoffs, he would win against any candidate. Reason? Because Khamenei and the IRGC have decided that it’s more important for them to have a yes man. It would be difficult to convince the public that Jalili won win majority of votes in the first round (because he is unknown). So in order to shore up his legitimacy, a second round is needed.

IF: Qalibaf is in the run off and its not Jalili who he is running against, then Qalibaf would win. Reason? Khamenei and the IRGC believe that having a runoff is important to boost the legitimacy of the elections by making them look like a tight race. Letting Qalibaf win under such a scenario would enable them to strike two targets with one stone: giving them the already mentioned advantages of Qalibaf, plus more legitimacy for the elections process.

There is very little chance that Rowhani would win the elections (less than 10%). Reason? His views re relations with West and need for compromise over the nuclear program to save Iran’s economy are out of line with that of the supreme leader and the IRGC.

The election’s dark horse, Mohsen Rezai, is, in my opinion, among all the candidates, the one who could surprise us as Ahmadinejad did in the 2005 elections. His combative style regarding the economy and its problems might have won him more support than we realize.

Now lets see where I have gotten it wrong, or right. Time will tell.

About the Author
Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli lecturer, author, and commentator. He has been teaching Iranian politics at Reichman University in Israel since 2012 and is Anti-Defamation League’s Iran consultant.