Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani Reuters

Iran’s constitutional watchdog on Monday set June 18, 2021 as date for the country’s next presidential election, a vote that will choose the successor to President Hassan Rouhani who has served two four-year terms in office, The Associated Press reports.

The watchdog, the Guardian Council, approved the date, Iranian election headquarters chief Jamal Orf was quoted as having told the official IRNA news agency.

Candidates hoping to run in the balloting are to apply in early April for approval. The final list is to be announced in early June.

Under Iranian law, an incumbent president cannot run for a third term if he has already served for two consecutive terms in office. Rouhani was first elected in 2013 and reelected four years later.

Candidates who wish to run for office in Iran are vetted by the Guardian Council. In 2017, for example, it disqualified former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running for president.

Candidates who are disqualified by the Guardian Council are allowed to appeal before the elections.

Rouhani has been under increasing pressure from the US sanctions since President Donald Trump two years ago pulled America out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump also imposed severe sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into a downward spiral. Iran is now grappling also with the Trump administration’s push to impose so-called “snapback” sanctions over what Washington says is Iran’s violation of the nuclear deal.

Iran held parliamentary elections in February that saw a turnout of 42.57% — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and a sign of widespread dissatisfaction and the state of the economy.

Before those elections, Rouhani clashed with the Guardian Council and warned of threats to the Islamic Republic's "democracy and national sovereignty" after the Council disqualified thousands of candidates.

Despite being touted as a “moderate” reformist, Iran has set new records under Rouhani’s presidency in the number of executions, many for political or religious "crimes".

He has also done little in the way of freeing reformist political leaders who were jailed after protesting the 2009 election and in stopping the limitations on freedom of speech in Iran, despite having openly criticized it.

In addition, he has in the past called Israel “illegitimate” and lamented that the crisis in Syria has made it difficult for Iran to focus on harming Israel.