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Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad, disqualified Larijani sign up for election

Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad, disqualified Larijani sign up for election
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others see an opportunity, but it remains unclear who will be qualified to run by the Guardian Council.

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other divisive figures – such as moderate Ali Larijani and ultraconservative Saeed Jalili – have signed up to contest new elections after the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.

Ahmadinejad, who was president from 2005 to 2013, registered along with dozens of others at the interior ministry on Sunday, a day before the sign-up period ends.

The politician, who had been largely sidelined following his controversial terms in office, said he’s only heeding “a call from people from across the country” to run again, and he’s confident he can resolve Iran’s domestic and international issues.

“Don’t ask political questions,” he said with a grin when asked by reporters about his reaction if he were to be disqualified from running by the Guardian Council – the constitutional body that vets all candidates.

Despite Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urging him to stay away in 2017, he signed up and was barred from running, but chose to not register for the 2021 election.

Ahmadinejad
Ahmadinejad says improving the economy and combating corruption are among his highest priorities [Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters]

Ahmadinejad’s presidency was marked by economic malaise defined by massive inflation and currency devaluation, along with explosive tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme – which saw multilateral sanctions imposed on the country.

His 2009 re-election sparked the Green Movement of protests across the country amid claims of vote tampering, which were refuted by authorities as they mounted a crackdown.

Who else wants to be in the race?

The dozens who signed up to run for president also include senior security official and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, former three-time parliament speaker Ali Larijani, Tehran’s Mayor Alireza Zakani, and former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati.

Jalili is now the Iranian supreme leader’s representative to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and used to be security chief from 2007 to 2013 at the height of the tensions surrounding the nuclear file. He has run for president unsuccessfully three times before.

Larijani, a conservative figure belonging to a powerful family, is perhaps the only relatively moderate candidate with any chance of garnering a considerable number of votes – that is if he is greenlit by the Guardian Council after being disqualified in 2021.

Despite the disqualification last time, Larijani was the first major figure to announce his candidacy, signing up in Tehran on Friday with his campaign releasing a dramatic video containing cinematic shots of him in the process.

After the latest presidential and parliamentary elections produced the lowest turnouts in the near 45-year history of the Republic of Iran, turnout is expected to prove a challenging issue during this vote as well.

The research centre of the Iranian parliament announced on Sunday that 53.4 percent of people – responding to a survey it conducted – said they would vote in the June 28 presidential election, with 28.9 percent still on the fence.

This is just above the 48 percent that saw Raisi become president, and much higher than the 42 percent turnout announced for the parliamentary election in March.

The Guardian Council is scheduled to begin vetting the candidates from Tuesday for six days, after which the list of approved candidates will be announced on June 11.

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