Two powerful Iranian political figures have registered their intention to run in the country’s presidential election. The two men have created a stir within the political scene just one month ahead of the vote.
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (pictured) and Saad Jalili, Iran’s hardline nuclear negotiator, submitted the required paperwork Saturday to run in next month’s election just minutes before the closing deadline.
“I came to serve,” Rafsanjani told Iranian media after lodging his paperwork with the Interior Ministry. “It is the right of the people to choose me or not,”
Rafsanjani, who will be 79 in August, was isolated by ultra-conservatives after he disputed Iran’s current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009.
The reformist’s challenge sparked massive street protests, leading to a heavy-handed regime crackdown and the arrest of hundreds of journalists, activists and supporters when Rafsanjani called for the release of those detained during the protests.
Nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who heads a group of representatives in negotiations with world powers over Iran’s controversial nuclear activities also made a last-minute bid to register his candidacy.
Jalili, who did not speak to reporters after filing the documents, is due to meet European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton on May 15 in Istanbul to discuss Iran’s nuclear agenda.
Their previous meeting in April left the two sides “far apart” according to Ashton.
Several countries fear that the controversial atomic activities are aimed at strengthening the country’s military capacity, a claim vehemently denied by Iran.
Iran’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday that more than 450 people had registered their intent to run for the top position, including 14 women.
The Guardians Council, an unelected body controlled by religious conservatives loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are tasked with vetting candidates to ensure their adherence to constitutional requirements of being faithful to the Islamic country and the religion.
A final list of candidates will not be made public until later this month, when the Council releases an approved list of vetted nominees. Candidates will have three-weeks to campaign before election day on June 14.
Constitutional restraints prohibit Ahmadindejad from seeking a third consecutive term in office.
jlw/dr (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)