Iran’s Presidents: A VT political history primer with Hamed Ghashghavi

Iran’s Presidents: An Assessment


[ Editor’s Note: This is a very in-depth but reasonable length political history of Iran since its revolution. It is not a topic that we would write about as frankly we don’t have the background or the time to do it.

But VT has never been limited by what our core group does not know as we can usually find someone who does. Mr. Ghashghavi is perfect example of that with his information filled report below that I suggest you save into a folder for future reference when you need a quick review.

Hamed Ghashghavi – Iran

Such material if invaluable to us, as we often have to prepare for TV interviews on short notice where having concise material like this can really come in handy. We have a huge inflow of material coming into VT that has to be sifted through for what our readers have time to absorb, and to also build up our own research folders.

Hamed has a short bio below, his education a product of coming from a diplomatic family and having lived overseas with much more cultural exposure than those who cannot do so. His father is a combat veteran of the long Iran-Iraq war which carries the social status like that of our own WWII veterans, despite the different time periods …Jim W. Dean ]

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– First published …  November 18, 2017

Hamed Ghashghavi is a Polyglot Researcher on North American and Western European Studies, Conference Organizer, Columnist, Biographer, Interpreter, Documentary Filmmaker & Editor, Teacher and Tour Guide based in Tehran.


In this report, we attempt at reviewing the central presidential stages of the Islamic Republic of Iran, since its foundation in 1979. The report has been written based on our study, as well as the analysis and fact-finding of the documents, news, and reports issued by various official institutions, and international and local media organizations interested in monitoring and evaluating the political situation in Iran.

According to Iran’s constitution, the President is elected for a four-year term, in a national election. The presidential candidates have to be approved by the Council of Guardians, a twelve-member body consisting of six clerics; selected by the Supreme Leader, and six lawyers; proposed by the head of Iran’s judicial system and voted in by the Parliament. Therefore, only those who believe in the Constitution and are well popular will be allowed to be the official candidates.

The first Iranian presidential election was held on 25 January 1980. It resulted in the election of Abulhassan Banisadr, with 76% of the votes. Later, Banisadr was impeached, on 22 June 1981, by Parliament, and he escaped from Iran. Then, Mohammad-Ali Rajai took office before he was assassinated, with his prime minister, by the terrorist MEK (Mujahidin Khalq ).

Remarkably, all the following administrations headed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohamed Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lasted for two consecutive terms, i.e. for more than 8 years.

  • In 1981, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was elected with 47.5% of nearly 75% of eligible voters, participated in the election. Additionally, in 1985, Khamenei was elected with 85%, with the participation of 54.78% of eligible voters.
  • In 1989, the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was elected with 96.1% of 54.6% of eligible voters, successively, in the 1993 election; he was elected with 64% of nearly 50.66% of eligible voters.
  • Mohammad Khatami was elected with 69.6%, in 1997, with the participation of nearly 80% of eligible voters. Consecutively, he was elected with 77.1% of nearly 75% of eligible voters.
  • In 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected with 61.82% of 62.84% of eligible voters. He was then elected with 62.63%, in the 2009 election, with the participation of nearly 85% of eligible voters.
  • Hassan Rouhani, in 2013, was elected with 50.88% of 72.7% of eligible voters. Perceptibly, Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election with the lowest percentage of votes, which means that half of the Iranian eligible voters voted for him. In the 2017 election, Rouhani defeated his conservative challenger Ibrahim Raisi and garnered 57% of the votes.

It is obvious how hypocritical the US behavior toward so-called “democratic process in Muslim majority countries” is, particularly in the case of Iran. Compared to other Persian Gulf states, the US has double standards, although people are revoked of their fundamental rights.

The Supreme Leader’s Perspective on the Presidency

Both Supreme Leaders late Khomeini and Khamenei have never asked voters to vote for any specific candidate. However, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei often mentions, in his public speeches, the exact qualifications a candidate should have in order to successfully manage his responsibilities, during the four years of presidency, and consequently not to deviate the country from its path of advancement and prosperity.

The most significant of these qualifications is to be a pious, professional, humble, has revolutionary views and shows his interest in serving the nation, internally and internationally.

On the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year 1396, in May 2017, Ayatollah Khamenei addressed a massive gathering of thousands of Iranians. He stressed the importance of public participation in the Iranian presidential elections, stating,

“What is primarily important for this humble being is your taking part in the election. All those who can vote should participate in the election; this is our primary and most important request.”

Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized the importance of actions based on the law saying,

“On the issue of elections, the exact requirements of the law should be acted upon. Therefore, whatever the result may be, it will be valid. It will be legal.”

Khamenei further said,

“I don’t interfere in the election process at all. There is only one thing I meddle in, and that is when a few individuals want to stand against the popular vote and the people’s choice, intruding on the people’s vote. Anyone who seeks to confront a nation’s vote, I will stand against them. This has been the same in the previous elections.

This was the same case for the elections of 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2013. Sometimes, this happens right before the eyes of the people. And in other cases, this humble person was informed while the people were not. In all those elections, I have mentioned, there were people who wanted to confront the elections. It became clear only in 2009; but in all those years, I stood up. I made it clear that whatever the election results are, they should be acknowledged.”

International Confrontation against Iran

Iran has faced 8 years of imposed war by the US, France, the UK, Germany, the Soviet Union & other western governments, lasting from 22 September 1980, when Sadam invaded Iran, to 20 August 1988. Iran’s political independence and economic autonomy under the Islamic Republic have helped the Iranian people to face the multiple sanctions imposed by the “International Community,” since 1979 until now.

This economic-financial isolation made Iran’s economy more powerful. Economists and financial experts consider these sanctions as the reason behind the industrial, economic, military and scientific progress, which Iran has witnessed since 1979.

That remarkable progress is spontaneous, since one under embargos and pressure, is in need of the basic and necessary requirements and, consequently, forced to create and invent. Therefore, industrial creativity and invention regarding the aforementioned domains were fundamentally achieved through the Iranian’s resolution, determination, consistency, and persistence.

The following is a list of the main Islamic Republic of Iran Presidents, since its establishment in 1980. The President of Iran is the highest popularly elected official in the country, and currently is Hassan Rouhani:

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997)

During the course of the late Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency, which was called the “Construction Period,” Rafsanjani tried to reestablish and recreate the infrastructures, which have been destroyed during the 8 years of the imposed war. However, Rafsanjani’s family were greatly engaged in both political and financial affairs.

His son Mehdi who was detained in March 2015, and sentenced to 15 years in prison, he had been convicted of security offenses and financial crimes. Mehdi Rafsanjani has been directly involved in American sanctions against Iran, after the 2009 election.

Conversely, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, by some means, has banned his children to be involved in economic and political affairs. Besides the familial corruption, Rafsanjani himself and his entourage became more aristocratic and capitalistic, and their slogans could never transfer to practice. Despite the fact that both Leaders Khomeini and Khamenei have repeatedly warned many times Iranian officials of such practices.

Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005)

When Mohammad Khatami took office, he promised to open a new dialogue with the so-called International Community and do social reform for women and youth. The problem is that Khatami ignored or attempted to ignore the reality, which most Iranians recognize, about this so-called “International Community.”

To Iranians, the “International Community,” for decades has been massacring, torturing, and assassinating other nations. An “International Community” is known for taking poor nations as slaves, violating their sovereignty, stealing their wealth and national resources, and dictating to them how to dress and what to eat and how to live, etc.

The “International Community,” led by the US, have failed on both economic and military options to subordinate Iran, they recently have passed through two conceivable steps, which are cultural invasion and negotiations, two means by which the US and its allies effort to infiltrate Iran.

For years, Americans have tried to impose their cultural model on all nations in an attempt to change their lifestyle. For instance, Hollywood as a practical cultural weapon has played an influential and main role in this manner. Iran is not the only target of the aggressive US Cultural Hegemony, even the Chinese and Indian cultures.

During both Mohammed Khatami’s presidential terms, the Western lifestyle was promoted in Iran, and the country has been culturally invaded. The term “cultural invasion”, “Cultural NATO”, and “Cultural warfare” are all terms describing this situation and utilized by the Supreme Leader, occasionally.

The West has infiltrated Iran, by investing hundred satellite channels; particularly broadcast in the Persian language, and manipulating the so-called concept of “female liberation”, and still doing their best. They aim at destroying the Islamic Iranian lifestyle and human values, which is totally opposed to Western culture, spending billions of dollars in that regard.

The cultural threat is indeed much more hazardous than the military or political one. Actually, the nation that has been politically occupied or military invaded could straightforwardly resist its enemy, however, it scarcely could resist “cultural invasion.” Evidently, the West claims that it gave political independence, but it has kept its cultural hegemony.

According to observers, the capital city of Iran, Tehran is the most Americanized city in the world. Moreover, this very dangerous “Software” has devastated many other nations, partially or even entirely.

Furthermore, under Khatami’s presidency “Disgraceful Paris Agreement” was signed, also Iran announced a voluntary and temporary suspension of its “Uranium Enrichment Program”, which was described by Khatami himself as the cause of “huge moral and financial damages and pushed our nuclear scientists to stop their activities.”

Many Americanized and pro-west Mainstream newspapers were promoted, which the Supreme Leader viewed as “trying to make up the image of America and prevent Iranian people to discover its real nature.”

The precedencies of both Rafsanjani and Khatami failed and the Iranians were looking for a revolutionary figure to fight that new aristocratic class among some of the most known Iranian officials.

Mahmud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013)

Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the succeeding president, was the governor of Ardabil (1993 to 1997), and then the mayor of Tehran (2003-2005). He used to work harder to resolve citizens ‘problems and lead the province in the course of prosperity and justice. Besides, Western observers said that the Iranians marked the most choking choose in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, electing Ahmadinejad with 61.82% of eligible votes while Rafsanjani had counted only 35.93%.

Being a trustworthy revolutionary figure, who has been involved in the revolution from the very beginning, Najad believes that, as well as others, are not the owners of the revolution, and they are in the service of the nation. In the 2005 presidential election, almost 90% of directors and managers, within the Ministry of foreign affairs, have been very actively working or promoting the candidacy of Rafsanjani, as they were regarding Ahmadinejad as a non-tested anti-establishment rebellion candidate who had no career in the revolution, in their eyes.

Imam Khomeini, the late founder of the revolution says, “The criteria of choosing someone is his current situation, not his past.” Ahmadinejad and his team have been working so hard, and particularly in small cities and villages in which he became a national hero. Naiad’s social policies, for instance, housing the homeless was and still is the most remarkable job in that domain.

In 2009, during a TV debate with his opponent Mir Hussein Moussavi, Ahmadinejad courageously mentioned the name of Rafsanjani and his family members by saying, “How Rafsanjani’s children are living now?” For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic’s state TV, and in front of millions, someone dares to query about these taboos; Rafsanjani’s aristocratic family.

Ahmadinejad, further, said, “Oh Iranian nation, I am addressing you, you all know that Moussavi is not confronting me, but he represents the triangle of Rafsanjani-Khatami-Moussavi who see their interests in danger, and aim at defeating your humble servant.”

Predominantly, Ahmadinejad’s purpose at questioning why those who claim themselves as the owner of the revolution, and who really do not have any specific talent should run the country, whereas there are many talented revolutionary young experts who can remarkably lead to the direction of advancement and prosperity.

Some believed that Ahmadinejad had become a little bit arrogant in his second presidential term and after the dispute based on diverse points of view, between him and the Supreme Leader, which took away his popularity, chiefly among revolutionary people.

Besides, Rafsanjani’s stream has done everything possible in order to tarnish Ahmadinejad’s image among public opinion and to conceal his accomplishments and successful endeavors. In addition, they did their best to destroy the Iranian economy, under Ahmadinejad to blemish what he and his team made for the Iranian middle class and particularly poor people.

One of the big missions he accomplished and did for the first time was organizing the official trips of the President himself and the ministers in provinces and other cities, which have never been visited by an ordinary authority. Rouhani utilized his visits in order to convince more people to vote for him.

Hasan Rouhani (2013- until August 2021)

Riding a large turnout from Iran’s urban middle classes, Hasan Rouhani was elected with 50.88% of the votes. Rouhani promised to accomplish many points, once he is president, however many of them have not been realized yet.

For instance, he pledged to:

  • To end the nuclear negotiations within 6 months,
  • To end the unemployment crisis,
  • To confront the ones in the administration who violate the laws
  • To eliminate the socio-familial problems, including divorces and drug addiction,
  • To hold accountable those who are involved in illegal acts.

Rouhani further promised in 2013, “In my program adding to the plans for resolving the economic, social issues, in addition to local and foreign policy, and cultural affairs. We can create an economic evolution in a short-term program of 100 days.”

However, the situation became worst, and during his second presidential year, many said that if Ahmadinejad runs the election against Rouhani, he would certainly win.

Moreover, the scandal of salaries was revealed during the Rouhani government. Rouhani’s brother was involved in appointing many of those who have been receiving exaggerated salaries, and despite the protest of many parliamentarians, Rouhani kept him as the close presidential advisor.

Unfortunately, Rouhani last administration trusted the USA and did lose 90% of its energy on the nuclear agreement, which finally has not at all been taken into consideration by the Obama administration. The worst point that Rouhani had linked resolving the national economic crisis to those negotiations.

The main sticking point between Rouhani and Ahmadinejad is that the latter was very indifferent to the aggressive campaign and denigration led by pro-Western Iranian and anti-Ahmadinejad mainstream media. While Rouhani from the very beginning harshly challenged the critics using harsh rhetoric.

Rouhani has made use of the Supreme Leader’s name to draw the majority to vote to him, and particularly to satisfy the revolutionary figures on several occasions, using such expressions, “As the eminent Leader stated…”, “We have been and are always following his eminent views…” However, practically, Rouhani and his cabinet act have contradicted what the Supreme Leader preaches.

2017 Presidency Elections

Last year, the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered to run in the presidency challenging an edict by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in Iranian matters. Referring to Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei mentioned,

“Someone came to see me and considering his own interests and the interests of the country, I told him he should not participate in that matter [elections]…” He added, “I didn’t tell him not to participate; I told him I won’t recommend him participate.”

Hassan Rouhani won the 2017 election, providing him with a mandate to continue his alleged quest to “expand personal freedoms and open Iran’s ailing economy to global investors.” Rouhani won 23 million (57 %), defeating his chief opponent, Ibrahim Raisi.

Moreover, Rouhani would badly need to demonstrate a recognizable advancement. Despite the fact that he accomplished his goal of reaching a nuclear agreement, during his first term, this step has not been translated into the economic revival he predicted, as a result of the American sanctions. He must correspondingly deal with the critical Trump administration, which constantly alleges that Iran is the ground of most of the Middle East’s troubles.


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