On June 18, 2021, 59 million Iranians will be eligible to vote in the country's Thirteenth Presidential and Sixth City and Village Council elections. These elections will also include runoff elections for the Parliament and Assembly of Records. There is speculation that this presidential election could serve as a bellwether for an eventual transfer of power to a new Supreme Leader. The elections also take place against the backdrop of heightened voter disaffection and calls for an active boycott, with turnout anticipated to be lower than in previous contests.
From June 1 to 15, 2021, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted a virtual pre-election analysis to examine conditions for these elections and to gather perspectives about the challenges and opportunities that they may pose. Despite cosmetic changes to the conduct of elections - including the introduction of new technologies - many of the underlying challenges to democratic elections in Iran have persisted across multiple election cycles with little to no fundamental change occurring over the past decades. Many of the concerns identified in a 2013 assessment continue to affect the electoral landscape in Iran today, while the opaque and seemingly arbitrary candidate vetting process in 2021 has resulted in an even narrower than usual pool of candidates.