Iran’s election watchdog has approved seven candidates to run in next month’s presidential elections, the interior ministry said on Tuesday, barring hundreds of hopefuls, including ex-parliament speaker Ali Larijani who was expected to be a main contender for the presidency.
At the top of the list of candidates approved by the Guardian Council sits judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, seen as the favorite to succeed the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.
The prominent ultraconservative cleric, who is frequently mentioned as a possible successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, looks to be the consensus candidate of Iranian conservatives in the upcoming June 18 vote.
Also on the list are former head of the Revolutionary Guards and current secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council Mohsen Rezaei, former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and Central Bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati.
The other three approved candidates – MP Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, MP Alireza Zakani, and former vice president Mohsen Mehralizadeh – are relatively low-profile politicians.
The Guardian Council, an unelected body responsible for vetting candidates, surprisingly disqualified Larijani, a supporter of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers who was expected to be Raisi’s main rival in the presidential race.
The council also disqualified current vice president Eshaq Jahangiri and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The latter’s disqualification was expected, as he had also been barred from running in 2017.
Ahmadinejad recently said he will boycott the elections if he is not allowed to run.
The Guardian Council is seen by some as a tool for Khamenei to control elections, as half of the 12-member vetting body are appointed by him.
The surprise exclusion of Larijani – a long-serving member of the establishment – could mean that Khamenei wants a straightforward win for Raisi in the elections, reinforcing the notion that he is being groomed to become the next supreme leader