AFP: Dozens of hopefuls, including four women and a truck driver, signed up on Tuesday to run in June 12 presidential election, seen as a test for Iran's dominant conservatives.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Dozens of hopefuls, including four women and a truck driver, signed up on Tuesday to run in June 12 presidential election, seen as a test for Iran's dominant conservatives.
Fifty people signed up to stand in the election on the first day of a five-day candidate registration period, Kamran Daneshjoo, the election committee head, told reporters.
A mix of citizens with no political background registered on Tuesday, including the truck driver, while others used the opportunity to make a political statement.
"Those who registered were managing directors, experts, retired government employees, teachers, professionals such as from the field of dentistry, and a truck driver," Daneshjoo said.
Most of them were from the cities of Tehran, Mashhad and Tabriz.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took power in August 2005, has yet to declare his candidacy but is expected to register to seek another four-year term before the deadline expires on Saturday.
Former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai, the former head of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards Corp, have already announced they plan to stand.
Ahmadinejad has faced mounting criticism from reformists and fellow conservatives mainly over his handling of the economy, accused of stoking inflation and "wasting" Iran's windfall oil revenues over the past two years.
Since his 2005 election, the president has gone on a spending spree, pledging generous sums for local projects and small business loans, and put Iran on a collision course with the West over its nuclear drive.
Rezai — so far the only main conservative rival to Ahmadinejad — on Sunday launched a bitter tirade against the president, accusing him of pushing Iran to the edge of a "precipice."
The official IRNA news agency said the first candidate to register was 45-year-old Mohsen Hadi Najafbadi from the province of Sistan Baluchestan which borders Pakistan.
"The first thing I will do after my victory is to create an office that will spread justice as this big tree of the Islamic republic is rotten with corruption and injustice," he told IRNA.
Under the Iranian constitution, candidates should have a political and religious background, hold Iranian citizenship and believe in the principles of the Islamic republic and the official religion of the country.
The candidates have to be at least 18 years old but the upper age limit has not been specified. More than 46 million Iranians are eligible to take part in the election, with the voting age also fixed at 18.
In 2005, over 1,000 people registered as candidates but the Guardians Council — Iran's hardline electoral and constitutional watchdog — only allowed eight to stand.
The council has in the past disqualified all women who put their names down as candidates but it said in April that there was no restriction on women standing this year.
To describe candidates for the presidency, the Iranian constitution uses the word "rejal," which in Arabic implies a man but which in Farsi means a political figure.
Dressed in a tight velvet coat and bright headscarf, 37-year-old Halina Saki was among the women who registered on Tuesday.
"I want to prove women can come forward and speak out on social issues," Saki, who holds a PhD in psychology, told AFP. "I don't think I'll pass the screening but whoever is elected should appoint women to the cabinet."
After the registration, the powerful 12-member Guardians Council will screen the candidates and give a final ruling on those who can actually stand for the election.
The council comprises six clerics selected by the supreme leader and six jurists proposed by the judiciary chief.
The names of successful candidates will be announced on May 20 and 21, with the election campaign running to June 10. The interior ministry has said results will be declared a day after the election.