TEHRAN – Iran named the hard-line cleric running its judiciary and six others Tuesday as approved candidates in its June 18 presidential election, barring prominent candidates allied with its current president amid tensions with the West over its tattered nuclear deal.
The announcement carried by state television puts judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, who is linked to mass executions in 1988, in the dominant position for the upcoming vote. He’s the most-known candidate of the seven hopefuls, with opinion polling previously showing his anti-corruption campaign drew Iranian support. He's also believed to be a favorite of Iran's 82-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But perhaps most notable was who Iran's Guardian Council barred from running. Chief among them was former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative who allied with Rouhani in recent years. Larijani had been positioning himself as a pragmatic candidate who would back Rouhani’s signature 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Diplomats in Vienna are now trying to negotiate a return of both Iran and the U.S. to the agreement.
Larijani seemingly signaled he wouldn't fight the decision.
“I have done my duty before God and the dear nation, and I am satisfied,” Larijani wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to all those who expressed their gratitude and I hope you will participate in the elections for the promotion of an Islamic Iran.”
Ali Motahari, Larijani's brother-in-law and a former lawmaker, separately wrote on Twitter that the Guardian Council rejected him because his daughter lives in the U.S.
Within Iran, candidates exist on a political spectrum that broadly includes hard-liners who want to expand Iran’s nuclear program and confront the world, moderates who hold onto the status quo and reformists who want to change the theocracy from within. Those calling for radical change find themselves blocked from even running for office by the Guardian Council, which also refuses to allow women to run, citing Iran's constitution.
Also barred Tuesday was former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad ignored a warning from Khamenei in 2017 and registered, only to be rejected then as well by the Guardian Council, a 12-member panel under Khamenei. Ahmadinejad maintains a following in Iran due to his populist policies and has threatened to boycott the election if he wasn't allowed to run.