Tehran, Iran – Controversial former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has once again registered to become Iran’s next president, but the top candidates scheduled for the June elections have not yet been registered.
The ultraconservative, who was president from 2005 to 2013, tried to run again in 2017 but was disqualified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional review body made up of six clerics and six legal experts.
Observers say the divisive figure, who still has followers among some parts of the Iranian population, is likely to be disqualified again.
Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei pledged on Tuesday not to exert any influence in the June 18 elections, which will replace relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani after serving two terms.
Ahmadinejad entered the interior ministry on Wednesday, the second day of registration of candidates, with a crowd of supporters surrounding him, breaking COVID-19 protocols that allow candidates to be accompanied only by one person in the registration area.
Shouting and chanting slogans, some of his followers were fighting with Interior Ministry staff as he entered. After registering, Ahmadinejad raised a fence outside to greet his fervent supporters.
At a post-registration press conference, the former president whose controversial re-election sparked the green movement and the 2009 protests called into question the veracity and popularity of the Iranian election in the years following his presidency. . He said the presidential election has now become an “empty drum” and said authorities do not reveal transparent figures.
“If I am disqualified, I will not support the elections and I will not vote,” he said, also stating that the country’s deep problems cannot be solved with the current style of government.
Most prominent conservatives were expected
According to the election headquarters, more than 59 million Iranians will be able to vote. But, as with the February 2020 parliamentary elections, which saw the lowest turnout in at least 40 years, the presidential election is also expected to have a low turnout.
Registration closes Saturday afternoon and the top candidates in the next election have not yet been formally registered.
Reports suggest that the head of justice, Ebrahim Raisi, will sign up, which would potentially make him the top candidate, as he enjoys the widespread support of fellow conservative politicians. Parliamentary President Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf reportedly told lawmakers he would not run and support Raisi. They both ran unsuccessfully against Rouhani in 2017.
On Wednesday, Parliament Vice President Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi registered to run for the presidency.
Also registered were Rostam Ghasemi, who served as oil minister under Ahmadinejad, and Mohammad Abbasi, Minister of Sports and Labor in two different presidencies in Ahmadinejad. Former President Agriculture Minister Sadegh Khalilian, who was disqualified in both 2017 and 2013, also signed up.
The polling station said 57 people tried to register on Tuesday, many of whom were conservative and hard-line.
The reformists are fighting
So far no prominent reformist has registered and it is unclear whether the opposing reformers could have a viable candidate.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, voted the most pro-reformist, said on Wednesday he would not run.
“Now that concerned friends are confident of my candidacy, I ask them to focus on their priority which is internal power and let us focus on ours which is to safeguard national interests and deliver people from cruel US sanctions, “he wrote in an online publication, referring to ongoing efforts in Vienna to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The hardliners have beaten Zarif for the past two weeks a confidential audio tape was leaked from an internal interview with him in late April. In the film, he frankly discusses the dynamics of power in the Islamic republic, noting how he had to “sacrifice” diplomacy several times for operations and policies driven by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the United States in January 2020.
Reports indicate that former parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who negotiated the 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement between China and Iran, could become a candidate.
Leading reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh has said he will register on Friday, but a recent unilateral proclamation by the Guardian Council may prevent him from running since he was jailed after contesting the results of Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
Last week, the council abruptly set new conditions for candidates, an action some criticized as illegal. He said candidates must be between 40 and 75 years old, have no criminal record (including dissent) and must submit documents showing at least four years of experience in executive leadership.