The Kingmaker in Iran’s Presidential Election

Why It Is Khatami—Not Khamenei—Whose Influence Matters Most

Mick Tsikas / Reuters

With Iran’s presidential elections days away, pundits and decision-makers alike have been following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s every move and remark in search of clues over which candidate he favors. The implicit assumption is that the elections are ultimately decided by one vote only—that of Ayatollah Khamenei. In reality, the supreme leader has far less control over elections than what is popularly believed. To the extent that there is a kingmaker in the Iranian elections, it’s not Khamenei but his reformist rival, former President Mohammad Khatami, whose endorsement carries the greatest weight. Despite the near limitless powers …