Iran's Ahmadinejad defends decision to run

Iran's former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the shock move on Wednesday of registering for next month's presidential election, going against the advice of the supreme leader.

The supreme leader, without naming Ahmadinejad, said he had advised the former president not to run in the election due to the possible polarization of society, as Ahmadinejad's candidacy could lead to a repeat of the unrest in the aftermath of his disputed re-election in 2009. His run for the presidency has puzzled Iranian political commentators who are asking what his candidacy might mean for Rouhani, who is expected to seek re-election.

Associated Press journalists who witnessed Mr Ahmadinejad register on Tuesday said election officials were "stunned" when he submitted the paperwork.

"It was an organised mutiny against the Iran's ruling system", said Soroush Farhadian, a Tehran-based analyst who backs reformists.

In front of reporters from AP, Ahmadinejad visited the Interior Ministry and filed the necessary documents just one day after registration opened.

"I think Ahmadinejad can't mobilize crowds", Kalashi said.

"There is extensive pressure on me from dear people of different walks of life as their small servant to come to the election scene", he said.

Khamenei ultimately calls the shots in Iran, where the president can only influence policy, but not dictate it.

Mr Ahmadjinejad was required to step down because of term limit rules in 2013, when President Hassan Rouhani won in a landslide on a promise to reduce Iran's global isolation. Even many hard-liners believe the council will disqualify Ahmadinejad and Baghaei, who was briefly jailed on corruption charges.

Two of his former vice presidents have been jailed for corruption since he left office, and Iran's economy suffered under heavy global sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran under Ahmadinejad had its nuclear and defense program accelerated.

Despite being credited for the massive damage caused to Iranian economy over the past decade, Ahmadinejad remains a heroic figure among the economically poorer sections of the society, owing to his staunch patriatic image, populist approach and humble roots.

There are six women and seven clerics among the 126 registered people, with ages ranging from 18 to 79.

The Guardian Council will assess the qualification of the applicants and announce the names of the qualified candidates by April 27.

On the heels of Baghaei's announcement, various video clips were released by Baghaei, Ahmadinejad and the former president's controversial friend and aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, some of whose pronouncements have been interpreted as "deviant" by some religious conservatives.

But the former president - whose tenure between 2005 and 2013 saw mass protests at home, plummeting relations with the West and a shattered economy - surprised everyone when he registered along with Baghaie on Wednesday.

  • Leroy Wright