Iran disqualifies Ahmadinejad from bid to regain presidency

Saeed Kamali Dehghan — The Guardian April 20, 2017

President Ahmadinejad

Former president Ahmadinejad is now excluded from running in the forthcoming election. Click to enlarge

Iran’s former hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been disqualified from running in Iran’s presidential elections next month, according to the final list of approved candidates announced on Thursday.

Iran’s interior ministry said that the guardian council – the group of influential jurists and clerics that vets all candidates – had approved six politicians to run, including the moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani.

Also on the list are Ebrahim Raisi, a close ally of the country’s supreme leader; the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf; Rouhani’s first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri; and relatively low-profile politicians Mostafa Agha Mirsalim and Mostafa Hashemi-Taba.

But the list excluded more than 1,600 other nominees who had applied to run for president, including all 137 female candidates – and Ahmadinejad.

The council’s decision marks a new nadir in the deteriorating relationship between the Iranian establishment and Ahmadinejad, whose controversial re-election in 2009 plunged the country into crisis.

Ahmadinejad’s exclusion means the presidential race will probably be a tight three-man race between Rouhani, Raisi and Ghalibaf. Jahangiri has already announced that his candidacy is tactical and that he intends to eventually drop out in favour of Rouhani. He is believed to have entered the race to help Rouhani to defend his legacy by buying more airtime in presidential debates and media opportunities.

Raisi’s surprise entry in the race earlier this month has threatened what many had expected would be a relatively straightforward bid by Rouhani for a second term. After rapidly rising in prominence over the past year, he is being touted as a possible successor to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Raisi and Ghalibaf originally belonged to a coalition of conservatives known as the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, or Jamna, which said only one candidate would ultimately run.

But both men have distanced themselves from the coalition and it is still not clear if either will pull out in favour of the other. Some analysts say a defeat would scupper Raisi’s chances of succeeding Khamenei and that he is therefore likely to drop out at the last minute.

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