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Iranians Make A Run For It, But They're Already Out Of The Presidential Race

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

An unnamed cleric who registered for this month's presidential election in Iran says he would legalize opium if elected.

Virtually anyone can register to run in Iran's presidential election.

The formal restrictions as laid out in the constitution are clear: potential candidates must be 18 or older; they must also be among the country's "religious and political personalities," hold Iranian citizenship, and believe in the principles of the Islamic republic and the official religion of the country.

But crucially, only a handful of applicants will actually be allowed on the ballot. And the 12-member Guardians Council that vets them has a long record of disqualifying liberal or reform-minded candidates, all women, and generally anyone it sees as a threat to the Iranian establishment.

One of the ways that many Iranians try to highlight that gap -- between registering and really running -- is to apply in large numbers during the current five-day registration period (April 11-15).

Many of those applicants have no political experience and zero chance of being approved. Here are some of the Iranians whose candidacies are aimed at making one point or another. They include two former political prisoners, several women, a Basij militia member widely known for never missing a state-organized demonstration, an Iranian-American, and a factory guard.

Dissenters

Publisher, blogger, and ophthalmologist Mehdi Khazali, who has been jailed several times in the past over his criticism of the Iranian establishment, pledged to work to eliminate hostility with the West if elected.

Mehdi Khazali
Mehdi Khazali


"We must seek to remove tension with the entire world," he said, according to AP. "Relations based on mutual positive interaction must be established."

Khazali also said that four years ago he supported President Hassan Rohani, adding that he has changed his mind because his is now convinced that Rohani is not a "reformist."

Ghassem Sholeh Sadi, a former lawmaker and professor of international relations jailed in the past for "insulting" Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, registered in a suit and a tie, which is considered by many Iranian conservatives to be a symbol of Western decadence. Sholeh Sadi was quoted by the news site Entekhab.ir as saying that there is nothing anti-Islamic about ties.

Ghassem Sholeh Sadi
Ghassem Sholeh Sadi


"If a tie is a reason for disqualification, it should be noted in the laws," he said. Sholeh Saadi has registered (and failed) to run for president in the past.

Iranian-American Academic

Houshang Amirahmadi
Houshang Amirahmadi


Houshang Amirahmadi, a professor of public policy and international development at Rutgers University, once told the hard-line Fars news agency that, if elected, he would focus on creating a strong national economy and more jobs for the country's youth. Amirahmadi also registered unsuccessfully for the 2013 presidential vote.

Woman

Azam Jabali
Azam Jabali


Azam Jabali was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying that she is registering -- and will keep doing so -- in order to convince authorities that women should be allowed to run. She said her campaign slogan is "Once Women." This year, Jabali was the second woman to register for the vote.

Twins

Hassan Seyedkhani and twin brother Hossein
Hassan Seyedkhani and twin brother Hossein


Hassan Seyedkhani showed up to register alongside his twin brother, Hossein. He said he put his name forward to raise the visibility of young people. Hassan was also quoted by Iranian media as saying that, if elected, he would appoint his twin brother as foreign minister. As for Hossein, he said he refrained from registering out of respect for his brother, who, he said, is his elder by two minutes.

Government Fanboy

Hamid Reza Ahmadabadi
Hamid Reza Ahmadabadi


Hamid Reza Ahmadabadi is an establishment devotee known as "Big Mouth Basiji." He gained public attention for his omnipresence at state-organized demonstrations, where he is often seen, his fist raised, shouting slogans enthusiastically.

Factory Guard

Abolghassem Khaki
Abolghassem Khaki


Abolghassem Khaki is a guard at a factory in the central province of Yazd who says he plans to travel to the United States and swim a race against U.S. President Donald Trump. Khaki said that his plans also include providing housing to young Iranians. He boasted that he had already prepared a list of cabinet members.

A 3-Year-Old


A man from the southeastern Kerman Province arrived at the Interior Ministry in Tehran to register his 3-year-old daughter to launch her political career, the hard-line Tasnim news agency reported. Authorities refused to register the little girl.

Opium And Polygamy

An unnamed cleric
An unnamed cleric


A cleric who reported having five wives and 18 children said upon registering said that if elected, he would legalize opium. "Opium is a medicine; it's not banned under Shari'a law," he was quoted as saying. "There won't be so many executions if opium is legalized." He also said that he wouldn't need presidential bodyguards.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at EsfandiariG@rferl.org

     

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