Skip to main content

Iranian conservative coalition at risk of collapse

As Iran approaches its May 19 presidential vote, conservative candidates continue to show no indication of being ready to withdraw in favor of the leading contender of the camp.
Men stand in line to vote during the Iranian presidential election at a mosque in Qom, 120 km (74.6 miles) south of Tehran June 14, 2013. Millions of Iranians voted to choose a new president on Friday, urged by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to turn out in force to discredit suggestions by arch foe the United States that the election would be unfair. REUTERS/Fars News/Mohammad Akhlagi  (IRAN - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ON

In Iran, the conservative camp continues to go through a rough patch as its presidential candidates continue to appear unwilling to withdraw in favor of a contender who, according to the camp, has the greatest chance of defeating incumbent moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

Ahead of the May 19 presidential elections, conservatives have tried to put aside their disagreements and form a coalition under the name Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, known by its Persian acronym, JAMNA. They have held two summits in which many names were brought up for nomination in the elections. JAMNA also held a primary of sorts, decreasing the conservative camp’s candidates to five individuals: Ebrahim Raisi, custodian of the holy shrine of the eighth Shiite imam; Alireza Zakani, a former hard-line parliament member; Mehrdad Bazrpash, who served as an official under the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the Tehran mayor; and Hamid Reza Haji Babaie, the minister of education under Ahmadinejad.

Many figures among conservative and hard-liners are in favor of Raisi and are urging other candidates to stand aside in support of him. Prior to his appointment as custodian of the Imam Reza shrine, Raisi held a series of senior positions in the judiciary over the past three decades. However, it seems that some of his fellow conservative candidates aren’t eager to leave the competition. For instance, Mostafa Mirsalim, a former minister of culture during the 1989-1997 presidency of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and a member of the Islamic Coalition Party, registered to run in the elections on April 11 and announced that he is not in agreement with JAMNA and will stay in the game. And on April 9, Hamid-Reza Taraghi, a senior member of the Islamic Coalition Party, said that if no consensus is achieved within JAMNA, Mirsalim will not stand aside.

Of note, the conservatives are worried about a repeat of the 2013 presidential elections, which saw Rouhani elected with the backing of the Reformists, and where the conservative camp was hit by disagreements that saw multiple conservative contenders being fielded rather than a single consensus nominee.

At present, the conservatives have started efforts to portray Raisi as the one who has the greatest chance of winning the election. Meanwhile, reports of the appointment of members of the hard-line Endurance Front to key positions in Raisi’s campaign have led to speculations that his chances of winning are decreasing.

The Endurance Front, with Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi as its spiritual head, is known for its hard-line views. The faction does not enjoy broad popular support among supporters, as Mesbah Yazdi does not see many conservatives as genuinely conservative and revolutionary. The representative of Mesbah Yazdi in the 2013 elections was Saeed Jalili, the former head of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, who only obtained 4 million votes against Rouhani, who got 19 million. In keeping with the Endurance Front strategy, Raisi also declared that he has entered the race as an independent. Local media, meanwhile, have quoted Mesbah Yazdi as telling Raisi not to join JAMNA.

In the meantime, despite Ghalibaf’s previous public statement about not intending to run for office a third time — he unsuccessfully launched bids for the presidency in 2005 and 2013 — there are reports emerging about his return to the race. On April 10, Parviz Soroori, a former parliament member close to Ghalibaf, said that the Tehran mayor has not conclusively stepped aside, saying Ghalibaf has no request to join JAMNA.

Moreover, Hossein Ghorbanzadeh, a member of Ghalibaf’s inner circle, has also said that in case of a decision to run in the elections, Ghalibaf would come forward as an independent — a statement that does not appear to be good news for the conservatives or for JAMNA, which would then be at risk of a collapse. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

Text Alerts - Be the first to get breaking news, exclusives, and PRO content.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial