Ex-President Ahmadinejad stuns Iran with election bid

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.

While it remained unclear whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad genuinely meant to run for president again, the move poses a direct challenge to the authority of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and upends an election many thought would easily be won by ruling moderate Hassan Rouhani.

"Whatever was former President Ahmadinejad's motivation in defying the supreme leader's advice, it will be a detrimental blow to his political career", Khosrou Dehghan, an analyst close to Iran's reformist camp, posted on Telegram, a social media app.

"Disregarding the Supreme Leader's recommendation damages the system and frustrates the aspirations of the people", he added, according the Iran-run website 'Itimad-Online'.

Ahmadinejad's entering the race has angered conservatives who no longer consider him an insider. At that time, he recommended an unnamed candidate not seek office as it would bring about a "polarized situation" that would be "harmful for the county".

Election officials appeared stunned, Associated Press journalists said, as they watched election officials process Mr Ahmadinejad's paperwork.

But in a news conference shortly after submitting his registration, Ahmadinejad described the comments by the supreme leader as "merely advice".

Internationally, Ahmadinejad also remains known for repeatedly questioning the scale of the Holocaust and predicting Israel's demise.

"He won't be qualified by the Guardian Council for sure given his background", he told the Tehran Times, citing Ahmadinejad's disobedience to abide by law during his presidency and opposition to the Leader, which he said is constitutionally a breach of law.

Ahmadinejad previously served a pair of four-year terms as Iran's president from 2005-2013. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Iran's economy also suffered under heavy worldwide sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

For many reasons, Ahmadinejad's announcement came as a surprise, inside and outside Iran. He is one of 126 candidates registered for the upcoming election.

On the other hand, Gindin also noted that the anti-government population around the country is far from a solid majority, and that the former president still has a strong base of support amongst many ordinary Iranians.

Taleblu speculated that Ahmadinejad may be attempting to gather support for his preferred candidate, Hamid Baghaie, a close ally and former advisor. All candidacies need to be approved by the powerful Guardian Council, which checks all applicants.

Rouhani, who has yet to formally register to run for reelection, signed an agreement with world powers to limit Iran's uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief.

  • Leroy Wright