London- On the eve of closing candidate registration for Iran’s upcoming May presidential elections, current President Hassan Rouhani and his chief conservative rival, Ebrahim Raisi, submitted their bids.
Raisi, 56, is a hardline cleric known for his ultra-conservative stances and great proximity with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He arrived at the registration committee center for presenting his candidacy papers a few hours after ‘moderate’ Rouhani had applied in hopes of winning over a second term in office.
Raisi showed up at the center accompanied by a number of mothers who had lost their children to wars fought by Iran, said Tehran-based media outlet Tasnim.
When presented with a copy of the Quran and Iran’s flag, Raisi accepted the gesture before dozens of flashing cameras that documented every step of him submitting his documents, but he made no statements, Tasnim added.
However, a few days earlier, Raisi said that his candidacy is an effort to salvage the country from ‘chronic structural disease’ and incorrect administrative traditions.
Raisi is a hardline judge who spent years in powerful backroom positions before emerging as a leading challenger for Iran’s presidential election next month.
In 1985, he became a deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Tehran in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war when thousands of political prisoners were executed.
Raisi spent a decade as head of the Inspection Office from 1993, followed by 10 years as deputy head of the judiciary. In 2006, he was elected to the Assembly of Experts that has powers to choose the next supreme leader, and now sits on its board of directors.
In 2012, he became a prosecutor in the Special Court of Clerics, charged with disciplining the clergy, and spent two years as Iran’s nationwide prosecutor-general from 2013 to 2015.
In March 2016, he was appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to head Astan Qods Razavi, a charitable foundation overseeing the Imam Reza shrine, as well as a huge business conglomerate with interests in everything from IT and banking to construction and agriculture.
Earlier this week, Iran’s election commission had announced two days ago that the number of candidates has exceeded 950 candidates, most notably – other than Rouhani and Raisi – is the contentious ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his former deputy Hamid Baghaei.
Tehran’s conservative Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is also among the high-profile candidates. Despite the dashing number, the vetting committee, known by the Guardian Council, will only authorize a few candidates whose names are announced by the Interior Ministry within two weeks to officially run for president.