TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's presidential election is June 14. Here are five things you should know:
Iran's election overseers allowed eight candidates on the ballot to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who cannot run again because of term limits. Most are solid loyalists to the ruling Islamic theocracy, headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Among the main questions: Will pro-reform voters rally behind one of the relative moderate candidates or boycott in protest of the relentless crackdowns in recent years?
WHO REALLY RULES
The Iranian president does not have a direct say in major policies such as the country's nuclear program or relations with the West. Those decisions are in the hands of the ruling clerics and its defenders, including the powerful Revolutionary Guard. The presidency, however, can help sway views. The president also directs the economy, which is an increasingly important role as international sanctions bite deeper over Tehran's nuclear program.
One of the major backstories of the election is the decision to bar former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from the ballot. The ruling clerics appeared worried that Rafsanjani would revive the opposition movement, which has been shattered by security forces. But blocking Rafsanjani deeply tarnished Iran's claims of a free election.
Iran's security forces are on high alert. In 2009, massive protests rocked the country after Ahmadinejad's rivals claimed the outcome was rigged in his favor. There have been no indications of widespread demonstrations this time. Authorities, however, are clamping down on everything from pro-reform gatherings to social media.
OPPOSITION UNDER WRAPS
The leaders of the 2009 protests, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Madhi Karroubi, have been under house arrest since early 2011. Both ran against Ahmadinejad and alleged vote fraud. Mousavi is a former prime minister. Karroubi served as speaker of Iran's parliament.