TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered on Friday as a candidate in the Islamic Republic’s June presidential election, seeking a second four-year term.
A senior aide had told Reuters earlier the conservative politician would run in the election, but Ahmadinejad had not himself confirmed his plans until the formal procedure at the Interior Ministry registration centre.
Moderate politician Mirhossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who is widely seen as Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the vote, is expected to register on Saturday, as is another reformer, cleric Mehdi Karoubi.
More than 170 people have so far signed up to run for president of the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter since registration began on Tuesday, but most face probable disqualification by a clerical watchdog body.
Ahmadinejad, who says Iran will never back down in its nuclear dispute with the West, won the 2005 election on a pledge to share out Iran’s oil wealth more fairly and to revive the values of the country’s Islamic revolution three decades ago. But reformists and even some conservatives have criticized him for his economic policies and accused him of isolating Iran with his fiery speeches against the West.
Analysts say the outcome of the race could depend on who enjoys the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose words could influence millions of loyalists.
Khamenei has in the past voiced support for Ahmadinejad’s government, but has also stressed he will stay neutral in the election.
Earlier on Friday, a former head of the elite Revolutionary Guards also registered to run for president.
Mohsen Rezaie, a conservative who is now secretary of the powerful Expediency Council arbitration body, said Iran’s economy needed “fundamental change” and advocated a broad government.
Although he is well-known in Iran after a long career as Guards commander, analysts do not see him as one of the frontrunners in the vote.
Registration ends on Saturday, after which candidates will be vetted by the Guardian Council, which has strict moral and other criteria and requires them to be established statesmen. In the last vote in 2005, only about 10 were cleared.