Iran General NewsIran's Rafsanjani registers for presidential race

Iran’s Rafsanjani registers for presidential race

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AP: Iran’s powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has entered the race for the June presidential election. Simultaneously, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s close confident Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei also signed up in the last minutes before Saturday’s registration deadline. The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has entered the race for the June presidential election.

Simultaneously, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s close confident Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei also signed up in the last minutes before Saturday’s registration deadline.

State TV showed both men at the Interior Ministry registering their names. A smiling Ahmadinejad accompanied Mashaei and raised the man’s hand in a gesture of support.

The registration of the two hopefuls puts forward a tough challenge to conservative candidates loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and will likely intensify competition between rival groups at the June 14 vote.

Rafsanjani is now the prime hopeful for reformists, who were widely crushed and left leaderless after massive street protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election victory.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Iranian election authorities say several new high-profile politicians including hardliners, reformists, and allies of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have registered for the June 14 presidential elections.

Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Ahmadinejad’s adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr and the president’s elder brother, Davood Ahmadinejad are among dozens who joined the race ahead of Saturday’s registration deadline. Pro-reform activists Ebrahim Asgharzadeh and Javad Eta’at also signed up.

The campaign is taking shape as open season on Ahmadinejad’s legacy and his combative style that bolstered his stature among supporters but alarmed critics. Ahmadinejad is barred by law from seeking a third term due to term limits under Iran’s constitution.

The hardline Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, will vet the applicants before allowing them to run.

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