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Iranian Ex-President Ahmadinejad Making Another Run For Office

Mahmud Ahmadinejad

Former Iranian hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has registered his candidacy for a third term in office in next month’s election.

State television reported on May 12 that Ahmadinejad marched with supporters to the Interior Ministry, where he filled out the required registration forms.

Considered an ultraconservative in the past, the 64-year-old ex-Tehran mayor has been more critical of the establishment in recent years.

He was barred from running at the last presidential election in 2017.

During his two terms in office, between 2005 to 2013, he pushed Iran into open confrontation with the West over its nuclear program, and his disputed 2009 reelection sparked the biggest mass protests in the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran on May 11 opened registration for potential candidates in the June 18 presidential election amid continued high tensions with the West and uncertainty over Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

After the five-day registration process, entrants will be screened for their qualifications by the Guardians Council, a hard-line constitutional watchdog that has in the past disqualified many moderate would-be candidates.

The Holocaust-denying Ahmadinejad has previously been banned from running for the presidency by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2017, although then, he registered anyway. The Guardians Council ultimately disqualified him then.

The council is to announce a final list of candidates by May 27, triggering a 20-day campaign season ahead of the vote.

President Hassan Rohani, a relative moderate whose government is taking part in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, cannot seek reelection after having served two consecutive four-year terms.

With the poll just a month away, no immediate favorite has emerged among the many rumored candidates, but many view the hard-liners as ascendant.

Turnout could be hit by rising discontent over steep rises in consumer prices and high unemployment as the Iranian economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. economic sanctions reimposed after Washington in 2018 pulled out of the nuclear accord, which lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Iran responded to the U.S. moves by stepping up its violations of the accord by enriching uranium to a greater purity, stockpiling more than allowed, and introducing more advanced centrifuges.

Several rounds of talks with world powers in Vienna on reviving the nuclear accord have yet to make major progress.

Iranian hard-liners took control of parliament last year in polls that saw 42.5 percent turnout, the lowest turnout since the 1979 revolution that brought a clerical regime to power.

Ahmadinejad’s political style, which included threats against Israel, denial of the Holocaust, and claims that Iran had no homosexuals, contributed to marginalize Iran on the international stage.

At home, he drew support from the countryside for his populist cash handouts and home-building programs, but even some of his conservative allies had abandoned him toward the end of his time at the presidency.

After leaving office in 2013, Ahmadinejad sought to reinvigorate his political fortunes in public and on social media.

In 2017, Ahmadinejad accused the hard-line judiciary of "dictatorship" and said that it is more powerful than the supreme leader, who has final say on all state matters in Iran.

With reporting by AP and dpa