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Heavyweights Beat Deadline For Iran's June Presidential Race

posted 11 May 2013, 08:42 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 May 2013, 08:43 ]

Ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani joins the Iranian election race in a flurry of last-minute entrants which include the country's former chief of staff and the chief nuclear negotiator.

TEHRAN, IRAN (MAY 11, 2013)  (PRESS TV) -  The last-minute flurry of heavyweight candidates registering for Iran's presidential election race in Tehran on Saturday (May 11) threw Iranian television commentators and journalists who ran with live pictures of the registration unsure which of who would be throwing their hat in the ring.

Outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was seen sitting next to his ally,Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as he registered.

Mashaie, Ahmadinejad's former chief of staff, has been accused by conservative hardliners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as leading a "deviant current" that seeks to erode Islamic clerical authority in favour of a more nationalistic doctrine.

Mashaie's candidacy must still be approved by the conservative body of clerics and jurists known as the Guardian Council. It is expected to issue a final list of approved candidates in 10 days' time.

As Ahmadinejad's man was registering his candidacy, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani appeared.

He too had come to register for the June 14 election with just minutes to spare. His candidacy radically alters what was previously seen as a contest between rival conservative groups.

The former president could scupper the hopes of 'Principlists', loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are aiming to secure a quick and painless transition and paper over the deep fissures between the opposing camps.

Rafsanjani, 78, who was president from 1989 to 1997, is expected to draw some support from reformists because he backed the opposition movement whose protests were crushed after the last, disputed election in 2009.

The election comes at a critical moment, as Iran reels from international sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme and faces the threat of attack by Israel if it attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon - an intention it strenuously denies.

A vast field of more than 400 candidates have thrown their names into the ring as potential successors to outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Shortly before Rafsanjani's announcement, Saeed Jalili, a hardline conservative who is seen as close to Khamenei and has led rounds of so far unsuccessful nuclear talks with world powers, entered his name as a candidate.

Jalili, a veteran of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, has since 2007 headed Iran's SupremeNational Security Council and is regarded as a hardline conservative close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A vast field of more than 400 candidates have thrown their names into the ring as potential successors to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

With Iran's economy reeling from international sanctions over the nuclear dispute, the outcome of the contest on June 14 will signal the extent of Khamenei's control at the summit of power in the Islamic Republic.

It will also show whether he feels the need to reach out to opposition groups and whether the reformists are capable of making a comeback. Proponents of greater social and political freedoms have been suppressed or sidelined: Mousavi, his wife and Karoubi have been under house arrest for over two years.