Iran's Rouhani registers to run for re-election

More than 860 people have been registered by the Iranian Interior Ministry as candidates for the upcoming presidential election, the Election Headquarters announced.

He is considered a close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who previous year appointed him to run the powerful charity-cum-business-empire Astan Qods Razavi (AQR), which oversees the Imam Reza shrine in the holy city of Mashhad.

His reelection in 2009, marred by fraud allegations, led to the biggest protests in Iran since the 1979 revolution."I merely registered here to support my dear brother, Baghaei", Mr. Ahmadinejad said, referring to Hamid Baghaei, his former vice president.

The politically moderate cleric faces a tougher than expected battle for a second term on May 19 as criticism mounts over the continued stagnation of the economy.

Some erstwhile supporters who had hoped for radical social changes under his presidency are also critical, saying he has failed to stand up to Iran's conservative religious establishment. Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013 pushing forward Iran's nuclear program despite worldwide opposition.

More news: Anti-Sanctuary City Legislation Advances To Texas House After Changes

Both Rouhani and Raisi on Friday avoided raising controversial issues, acquiescing to a longstanding demand by Khamenei who had urged a non-polarized election.

Ebrahim Raisi is a hard-line judge who spent years in powerful backroom positions before emerging as a leading challenger for Iran's presidential election next month.

When he was head of government from 2005 to 2013, Ahmadinejad repeatedly questioned the Holocaust, called for Israel's destruction and expanded Iran's nuclear program. The presidential candidates can enroll for presidential elections on April 11-16.

The registration for the 12th presidential race will last until Saturday evening and all the hopefuls will undergo the subsequent vetting process by the country's high legislative body, namely the Guardian Council of the Constitution. The applicants will then be vetted by the Guardian Council to receive approval.

"I have come to be the candidate for the whole of Iran".

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