An Iranian hard-line constitutional watchdog has approved seven candidates to run in next month's presidential election, leaving out several high-profile hopefuls allied to outgoing President Hassan Rohani.
The Guardians Council selected Ebrahim Raisi, Mohsen Rezai, Saeed Jalili, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, Abdolnasser Hemmati, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, and Alireza Zakani, the Interior Ministry announced on May 25, triggering the start of the campaign season ahead of the June 18 vote.
As notable for those on the list is those who were left off.
Ali Larijani, a prominent conservative voice and former parliament speaker who later allied himself with Rohani, was eliminated from the race, along with current Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a reformist, and hard-line ex-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The decision by the Guardians Council, which did not explain why candidates were included or excluded from the list, puts Raisi, a hard-line cleric in charge of Iran's judiciary, in a dominant position for the upcoming election.
He's the best-known candidate of the seven hopefuls, has close ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and ran against Rohani in the last presidential election, in 2017.
Some 590 would-be candidates had registered for the vote, a spokesman for the council of clerics and jurists said earlier.
The Guardians Council has in the past disqualified many moderate presidential hopefuls.
Rohani, a relative moderate whose government is taking part in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, cannot seek reelection after having served two consecutive four-year terms.
There were few signs of enthusiasm about the upcoming vote amid 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 three years ago pulled out of the nuclear accord, which lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
In response, Tehran steadily overstepped the accord's limits on its nuclear program designed to make it harder to develop an atomic bomb -- an ambition Tehran denies.
Iran and the United States have engaged in indirect talks in Vienna since April to revive the accord.