Iranians will vote on 14 June to choose a new president, four years after the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provoked demonstrations and a brutal crackdown. The turbulence of the president's second term, characterised by political wrangling and economic troubles, had led to questions as to whether a truly competitive election, which might repair the damage done to the electoral system's credibility by the 2009 poll, would be allowed.
This year, eight candidates have been approved to run for the presidency, but only six will stand for election. The registration of some unexpected candidates seemed to indicate that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei would allow a credible, competitive vote. However, the disqualification of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on 21 May suggested otherwise.
Contrary to the way it is often portrayed in the West, Iran's political system is neither unified nor monolithic. It is not a dictatorship: Khamenei is the ultimate but not the sole decision-maker. No single entity makes decisions. Rather, politicians represent a multiplicity of views and the aim is to rule by consensus. This explains why, despite numerous ill-judged decisions and problems, the system remains in place.
Nevertheless, Iranian politics have been volatile in recent months. October 2012 saw the first significant protests since the 'Day of Rage' on 14 February 2011. This time demonstrations were prompted by a sharp fall in the value of the Iranian rial on currency markets. Riot police quickly dispersed crowds and numerous arrests were made. Having shown that it would not tolerate dissent in the run-up to the June elections, the regime then pursued a dual-track approach, allowing potential candidates from various backgrounds to meet Khamenei, while stepping up a campaign of arrests and intimidation of politicians, journalists and activists.