Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the controversial hardliner who was president of Iran from 2005 to 2013, on April 12 unexpectedly registered to run in the presidential race set to take place in May.
Associated Press reported that election officials were stunned when they were requested to process his registration paperwork, given that last year Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took the unusual step of publicly stating that he had recommended that Ahmadinejad should stay out of the contest, set to culminate on May 19.
Khamenei revealed his thoughts on the matter in a meeting with seminary students, saying it would be better if Ahmadinejad did not return to politics “both for his own and the country’s good”.
The re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009 sparked huge protests across the country as allegations spread of electoral fraud. His relationship with Khameini became fraught and to this day he remains a polarising figure. It was during Ahmadinejad’s time in office that Iran’s economy was hit with heavy international sanctions because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, despite its claims that the Iranian nuclear programme was only concerned with non-military technology.
After flatly ignoring the top cleric’s advice by registering to run in the upcoming election, Ahmadinejad told reporters: “He said I should not participate. However, it does not mean I am banned [from participating].” He added that it was “just advice”.
Like all those bidding to run - including incumbent moderate President Hassan Rouhani who secured the lifting of many of the international sanctions by signing the nuclear deal in 2015 - Ahmadinejad will have to get past the Guardian Council to make it on to the ballot paper. This body of jurists and clerics who are close to Khamenei vets all candidates.
At a Tehran press conference on April 5, during which Ahmadinejad confidant and protégé Hamid Baghaei announced his intended candidacy for the election, the former president said he did not plan to run himself.
Analysts have so far settled on Ebrahim Raisi, a top hardliner who on April 9 confirmed his intention to stand in the election, as the conservative who might unite the various conservative factions.
Raisi on April 12 announced that his campaign manager would be former parliamentarian Mehdi Hashemi.