Iran Approves Six Presidential Candidates, Blocks Ahmadinejad

Iran’s Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was among six candidates approved on Thursday by the country's conservative-dominated Guardian Council to run in next month's election while former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was barred, state media reported.

Ahead of the May 19 presidential election, a total of 1,636 Iranians applied to be allowed to run, but in the course of less than a week all but six were deemed unsuitable and disqualified.

Speaking of other candidates, she said that their successes will depend on the upcoming debate.

Ahmadinejad, who left office in 2013, had been very publicly warned by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei not to run for another term.

The race to become Iran's next president has officially begun after the definitive list of candidates was published.

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Rouhani engineered Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that secured removal of most of global sanctions against Tehran. May 18, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, according to the Press TV.

His populist economics and defiant attitude to the establishment had alienated even Ahmadinejad's hardline backers during his 2005-2013 tenure.

The president's top challenger may be Raisi, 56, who was appointed a year ago to manage the Astan Quds Razavi, a wealthy Islamic charity that also controls the country's holiest shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad. The Guardian Council, half of whose 12 members are clerics appointed by Khamenei, rejects all candidates who are seen as challenging clerical rule. That agreement gave Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear program, but has been assailed by hard-liners.

But crucially, Rouhani retains the unified support of moderates and reformists, who still see him as the best hope for change within the strict parameters of Iran's Islamic system. Many hard-liners have rallied around Raisi, who got a boost past year when Khamenei appointed him head of an Islamic charity that holds extensive business interests in Iran. Khamenei himself also might favor a second term for Rouhani despite his closeness to more hard-line candidates. From 1981 to 1989, he served as the advisor to then president Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Raisi, who is now a law professor, previously served as attorney general and deputy judiciary chief.

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