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November 22, 2017
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Ahmadinejad out of Iran race for president

TEHRAN — An Iranian panel charged with vetting candidates approved the country’s incumbent president and five challengers but disqualified former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running in next month’s presidential election, state television reported yesterday.

The decision by the Guardian Council means that President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, will face off against a field that includes two prominent hard-liners: Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf.

The Guardian Council, a cleric-dominated body that vets candidates, said it had compiled a final list of candidates earlier Thursday and that the Interior Ministry would announce their names by Sunday.

The panel controls elections and must approve all laws passed by parliament. It has never allowed a woman to run for president and routinely rejects political dissidents and others calling for dramatic reform.

Other presidential candidates who made the cut, according to an Interior Ministry statement carried by state TV, include moderate Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former conservative culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim, and former pro-reform vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba.

Ahmadinejad, who remains a deeply polarising figure even among Iranian hard-liners, had shocked the country by registering last week. Khamenei had previously urged him not to run.

Ahmadinejad was president from 2005 to 2013, and was best known abroad for his incendiary rhetoric toward Israel, his questioning of the scale of the Holocaust and his efforts to ramp up Iran’s nuclear program.

He said upon registering that he was doing so to support his former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, who also failed to receive approval to run.

‘He was an unwanted guest in the election,‘ Tehran-based political analyst Soroush Farhadi said of Ahmadinejad’s disqualification. He predicted the former president would nonetheless remain politically active during the campaign to create a ‘quasi-opposition face for himself‘ for the future.

More than 1,600 people registered to run for the May 19 election.

Under Iran’s clerically overseen system, the president is subordinate to Khamenei, who is Iran’s top decision-maker and has the final say on all matters of state. Khamenei appoints half the Guardian Council’s members.

Rouhani, 68, is hoping voters will deliver him a second term to see out his promises of greater personal freedoms at home and openness to the wider world as he works to turn around Iran’s sagging economy — a top priority for many voters.

— Herald with AP

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