Date: June 14, 2013
With only six months left in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's lame-duck presidency, the race to succeed him is starting to heat up. Until recently, many thought Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and chosen successor Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei was the president's most likely replacement, but the souring of relations between Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last year seems to have poisoned his candidacy. According to analysts, the Guardian Council, which vets candidates in Iran, would most likely block Mashaei if he decides to put his name forward. Without anyone close to Ahmadinejad, the election will likely feature a bland group of pragmatic and hardline conservatives, such as Khamenei confidant Ali Akbar Velayati, parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, and Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran's nuclear negotiation team. Another Khamenei loyalist being bandied about is Tehran Mayor Mohammad Qalibaf, who ran unsuccessfully in 2009. None is a reformer, and all would likely advance Khameni's push to consolidate political power.