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Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad enters race to succeed Raisi

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to the media as he arrives for a press briefing after submitting his application for the June 28 election in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, June 2, 2024   -  
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Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


Iran’s hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered on Sunday as a possible candidate for the presidential election, seeking to regain the country’s top political position after a helicopter crash killed the nation’s president.

The populist former leader’s registration puts pressure on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In office, Ahmadinejad openly challenged the 85-year-old cleric, and his attempt to run in 2021 was barred by authorities.

The firebrand, Holocaust-questioning politician’s return comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear programme, its arming of Russia in the war in Ukraine and its wide-reaching crackdowns on dissent.

Meanwhile, Iran’s support of militia proxy forces throughout the wider Mideast have been in increased focus as Yemen’s Houthi rebels attack ships in the Red Sea over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking after his registration, he vowed to seek "constructive engagement" with the world and improved economic relations with all nations.

After speaking to journalists in front of a bank of 50-odd microphones, Ahmadinejad said, his finger in the air: “Long live the spring, long live Iran!”

Before his arrival at Iran’s Interior Ministry, his supporters chanted and waved Iranian flags.

They quickly surrounded Ahmadinejad, 67, shouting: "God is the greatest!"

He descended the stairs at the ministry, showing his passport as is custom to dozens of photographers and video journalists on hand for the registration process.

An election is planned for June 28 to replace Khamenei’s hard-line protégé President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May along with seven other people.

Former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative with strong ties to Iran's former relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, has already registered, as has former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, who also ran in 2021.

Who else will seek to run remains in question.

The country’s acting president, Mohammad Mokhber, previously a behind-the-scenes bureaucrat, could be the front runner because he has already been seen meeting with Khamenei.

Also discussed as a possible aspirant is former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, but, as with Ahmadinejad, whether he would be allowed to run is another question.

The five-day registration period will close on Tuesday, and the Guardian Council is expected to issue its final list of candidates within 10 days.

That will allow for a shortened two-week campaign before the vote in late June.