Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who championed the country’s nuclear deal with world powers, registered on Friday to run for re-election next month, state TV reported.
Rouhani, who won election by a landslide in 2013, faces a tougher than expected battle for a second term on May 19 as criticism mounts over the continued stagnation of the economy.
The president appeared in the afternoon at the interior ministry, where registration to stand for the election runs until Saturday. The five-day registration period for the May 19 election started on Tuesday and will be followed by a process of vetting of the hopefuls by a hardline watchdog body, The Guardian Council.
Over 860 people have signed up so far for the vote.
Several former ministers and hardliner former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are among those who have registered.
Despite months of talks, hardliners remain divided, and Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appears to have not yet intervened.
Within Iran’s complex mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters.
Influential cleric Ebrahim Raisi, the custodian of a powerful organization in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine, appears to be the leading hardline candidate.
Raisi, 56, visited the interior ministry later on Friday to register for the 12th presidential election. Prominent conservatives, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, have thrown their support behind Rouhani.
The conservative-controlled Guardian Council will vet the hundreds of registered hopefuls over the