Iran's Ahmadinejad Will Run For Presidency, Flouting Ayatollah's Advice

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered for next month's presidential election in apparent defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's advice not to run to avoid polarising the country.

"With today's move - registering for the presidential election, my belief in you was broken", ex-lawmaker and Ahmadinejad loyalist Mehdi Koochakzadeh wrote on social media.

"However, if the eight years (2005-2013) of the Ahmadinejad administration have proven anything, it is that the former president covets conflict and the spotlight nearly as much as he does populism, Islamism, nationalism, and anti-Semitism", said Taleblu.

Ahmadinejad previously said he wasn't going to run after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei advised him not to.

The surprise move will likely upend an election many thought would be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.

After a term out of office, Mr Ahmadinejad is now permitted to stand again under Iran's constitution, but he still needs the approval of the 12-member Guardian Council which vets candidates, six members of which are appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei.

By putting his name forward, analysts say Ahmadinejad is trying to make any disqualification of Baghaei costly for the Guardian Council.

President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who engineered Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that secured a removal of global financial and trade sanctions against Tehran, is expected to seek re-election but faces a stiff challenge from conservatives who oppose the deal. Iran has claimed the program is for peaceful purposes. It was during Ahmadinejad's time in office that Iran's economy was hit with heavy worldwide 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.

Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, a prominent Iranian cleric, is considered the preferred candidate.

Since the 1990s, he said, the choices by conservative grandees have lost every time - either to more reformist candidates, or in the case of Ahmadinejad, to a hardline populist who refused to play ball with the establishment in a way that many have lately compared to Donald Trump.

Mehr news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that he registered as a candidate "only to support Baghaei".

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.

"His advice does not prevent me from running", he said.

Internationally, he is known for repeatedly questioning the scale of the Holocaust, predicting Israel's demise and expanding Iran's contested nuclear programme. The final list of candidates will be announced in two weeks, after an Interior Ministry council reviews the list.

The registration process is to last for three more days and Iranians will go to the polls on May 19. The benefits have yet to trickle down to the average Iranian, however, fuelling some discontent.

"Ahmadinejad knows full well that his candidacy is an affront to Khamenei who had publicly barred him from running", said Mr Vaez.

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

  • Leroy Wright