(TEHRAN, Iran) -- There's an upcoming presidential race that will have everyone's attention, but it's not in the U.S.
In 2013, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will step down as Iran's president and there's talk he's already grooming his successor, chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
That might not go over too well with Iran's clerical leaders, since Mashaei doesn't favor a large theocratic involvement in politics. He also supports more cultural openness.
In the past, Mashaei angered the clergy by suggesting that Iran could forge close ties with Israel, as well as for applauding women who danced in a ceremony in Turkey. Women in Iran aren't permitted to dance in public.
All this has led Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to accuse Mashaei of undermining the principles of the Islamic Revolution that led to the ouster of the Shah of Iran in 1979.
What has also incensed the clergy is Ahmadinejad's solid support for his chief of staff, who also happens to be the father-in-law of the president's daughter. What's more, Ahmadinejad has also said he would be proud to serve as first vice president under Mashaei.
Of course, a Mashaei candidacy might never happen since Iran's powerful Guardian Council, which vets all candidates, can easily turn him down.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio