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Rouhani, rival to run in Iran's presidential election; Ahmadinejad barred

Published Apr 21, 2017 12:49pm


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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani smiles as he attends at the Interior Ministry to register his candidacy for the May 19 presidential elections, in Tehran, on April 14. ─ AP
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani smiles as he attends at the Interior Ministry to register his candidacy for the May 19 presidential elections, in Tehran, on April 14. ─ AP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi were both approved to run in May's presidential election by a government vetting body, while former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified, state media reported on Thursday.

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.

Four other candidates were also qualified to run. Among them are Rouhani's vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Ahmadinejad (left) and his close ally Hamid Baghaei, right, shake hands after registering their candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections on April 12. ─ AP
Ahmadinejad (left) and his close ally Hamid Baghaei, right, shake hands after registering their candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections on April 12. ─ AP

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 criticised 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 Iranians are jobless out of a total population of 80 million.

Rouhani has claimed that inflation has decreased and the economy has grown on his watch. He has also said in recent public appearances that the judiciary and security forces should be more mindful of ordinary Iranians' rights and privacy, which is likely to appeal to his supporters.

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.

Regardless of how the rivalry between Rouhani and Raisi plays out, top Iranian officials, including Khamenei, have said they will confront any individuals or groups who attempt to destabilise the country. Iranian police fanned out across Tehran after the names of the candidates were announced on Thursday night, according to the news site of the Iranian judiciary Mizan Online.

Live debates between presidential candidates, a feature in the last two presidential elections, have also been called off, according to state media. Pre-taped interviews will air instead, perhaps to keep candidates from stoking up their supporters.

Widespread protests broke out and continued for months after the disputed election of Ahmadinejad in 2009, and led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests.

“The bitter incidents of (2009) will not be repeated,” Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said on Wednesday, according to state media.


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Comments (10) Closed

M.Saeed Apr 21, 2017 01:05pm

Rouhani is the best peaceful face in the Irani political horizon today.

Javed Apr 21, 2017 04:30pm

In Iran the president serves at the pleasure of the real power in the country, much like the French prime minister.

kumail Apr 21, 2017 05:04pm

Rouhani economic policy has brought unemployment and corruption is beyond imagination. His tone of friendship to aggressor like US was a poor judgement. Also he does not want to participate in live debate, guess why?

Hyder Apr 21, 2017 05:46pm


Iranian presidential elections are not fair and the candidates are rubber stamped by supreme leader Ali Khameini as it showed in case of rejection of nomination papers of Ahmednijad.

Karim Apr 21, 2017 06:27pm

Another puppet show....the supreme power since wonder these countries don't progress as new thoughts do not different innovation....hopeless way to live...where is the vibrancy.....the reason Islamic countries are spiralling and mentally stagnant

Alba Apr 21, 2017 06:59pm

Ahmadinejad barred for an overabundance of ego. He wants to return to be the news of the day, every day.

ArifNayani Apr 21, 2017 07:11pm

@HYDER.. Sir can you please answer my some questions If you do know soo much about Iranian elections 1:-If the candidates are rubber stamped and all electoral processes is carried out as drama then how come the people of Iran show soo much interest in elections as evident by their voter turnout which is quite higher then many soo called democratic countries..Keeping in mind that these elections do take place undercoverage of almost all famous media outlets.. 2:-If the supreme leader is soo much influential there then how come in last elections President Hassan Rouhani won by landslide victory despite being a reformist and Supreme leader's own advisor Dr Ali Akbar Velayati lost by huge margin.. Thirdly have you even read the reason given by Guardian Council for rejecting Dr Ahmadinejad's candidature.The real reason was that an investigation was going down within court regarding corruption by Ahmedinejad's cabinet minister and till the court gives its final verdict Mr Ahmedinejad can't be given a clean chit..

Owais Apr 21, 2017 07:33pm

How is Ahmadinejad's disqualification, a snub for Khamenai? He is the one who advised Ahmedinejad against the run?

Hyder Apr 21, 2017 08:25pm

@ArifNayani Agha Behjad a renowned cleric had openly rejected and objected against the appointment of Ali Khameini as the supreme leader as neither he had studied in a seminary nor had experience.

Mahmoud Ahmedinijad had sold his car to invest in the academic institution he is studying and had the guts of speaking the truth in the security council against world powers like Ayatullah Khomeini used to do. Ayatullah Ali Khameini is a supreme dictator who look after each and every appointment in iran and play for world gallery.


ARIFNAYANI Apr 21, 2017 09:19pm

@HYDER.. None of your allegations against Ayatollah Ali khamenei have answered my questions nor did they make any sense.. Please answer the questions as stated if you think you are so learnt regarding Iranian system..