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Iran bars former President Ahmadinejad from bid to regain presidency

Iran’s former hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been disqualified from running in Iran’s presidential elections next month

21 April 2017, 8:43am
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran’s former hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been disqualified from running in Iran’s presidential elections next month, while current President Hassan Rouhani and hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi were both approved, 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.

The approval of Rouhani, a moderate, and Raisi, a political hardliner thought to have the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sets up a showdown between rival political camps.

Other candidates approved include 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.

Khamenei had advised Ahmadinejad not to run, and his attempt to become a candidate was widely seen as a public snub to the Supreme Leader, which is nearly unheard of in the Islamic Republic.

The disqualification of Ahmadinejad, a two-term president, draws attention to the criteria that the Guardian Council, the governmental body which vets candidates, uses in the selection process.

Khamenei appoints half of the members of the Guardian Council, and by disqualifying Ahmadinejad, the body runs the risk of being seen as a rubber stamp for the Supreme Leader, who is the highest authority in the country.

Rouhani and Raisi will likely face off over the economy as well as the nuclear deal signed with Western powers, which Rouhani has highlighted as his signature achievement during the past four years in office.

Iran agreed to curb portions of its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of several sanctions as part of the deal.

Political hardliners see the deal as a form of capitulation and are wary of the opening it presents for Western companies to work in the Islamic Republic.

In recent days, Raisi, who was appointed by Khamenei as the head of a multi-billion-dollar religious foundation last year, has repeatedly blasted Rouhani's economic performance.

Khamenei has also criticized Rouhani's economic performance in recent speeches and called on the government to do more to address the issue of unemployment.

About 3.2 million Iranian are jobless out of a total population of 80 million.

Rouhani was elected in 2013 with a promise to bring about greater individual freedom and detente with the West. Some of his supporters say he has fallen short of those goals.