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Iranians will head to the polling on Friday to elect their new President

TEHRAN: Iranians will head to the polling booths on Friday for a presidential election aimed at addressing economic challenges amid turbulent times for the nation.

Originally scheduled for 2025, the election was brought forward following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.

The snap election comes as Iran grapples with the economic impact of international sanctions and heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

Leading contenders for the presidency include conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and reformist Massoud Pezeshkian. Other candidates are conservative Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani, cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and incumbent vice president Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, head of the Martyrs’ Foundation.

The candidates have conducted low-key campaigns, featuring televised debates where they discussed economic challenges and offered varying views on Iran’s relations with the West.

Reformist figures, including former president Mohammad Khatami and ex-foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have endorsed Pezeshkian.

Alireza Valadkhani, a 35-year-old tax consultant, told AFP he will vote for Ghalibaf, believing he “is the only one who can help Iran in its current situation.”

Economic challenges The pressing challenge for all candidates is addressing the economic hardships faced by Iranians, who are struggling to make ends meet.

Despite avoiding a total economic collapse, thanks to oil exports to China and higher crude prices, petroleum exports remain below pre-2018 levels.

Most candidates aim to continue Raisi’s policy of economic self-reliance and expanding business ties with Asia. Others advocate for broader international relations but have not provided concrete steps to address sanctions.

With unemployment at around 7.6%, down from 9.6% when Raisi was elected, many formal jobs pay inadequately, suggesting a higher true figure of people without sufficient income.

“It is not difficult to understand why most Iranians are angry,” said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech. “Living standards and poverty may have improved in the last two years, but this is not true going back a decade or two. The new president can inject hope and stop the conditions from getting worse, but not get Iran back to the 2000s,” he added, referring to a more prosperous period.

Prices for basic goods like dairy, rice, and meat have skyrocketed. The subsidized price of lavash bread has increased by at least 230% in the last three years, while red meat has become prohibitively expensive for many, with its price rising by 440% to $10 per kilogram.

Candidates have promised to implement the country’s seventh development plan, approved last year by parliament, which aims to curb inflation, develop exports, and achieve 8% annual growth under sanctions.

However, the World Bank forecasts annual growth rates below 3.2% for the next three years due to subdued global demand, sanctions, and domestic energy shortages.

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Written By

I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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