Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has filed to run in the country's May presidential election, contradicting a recommendation from the nation's Supreme Leader to stay out of the race.
Defying Iran’s supreme leader, the confrontational former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad filed papers Wednesday to contest next month’s elections, a long-shot bid to regain his post that stunned even veteran political observers.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had advised Ahmadinejad last September not to run again and the ex-president said he agreed, even calling a news conference last week to announce he was backing his former vice president, Hamid Baghaei, for the presidency.
Asked why he changed his mind, Ahmadinejad said, “The supreme leader advised me; he didn’t order me,” according to the ISNA news agency.
It was a typically brash move for a wily populist and archconservative who confounded Western countries during his eight years as president, when he was prone to aggressive and sometimes demonstrably false statements, such as denying the Holocaust and stating there were no gay people in Iran.
His candidacy must be approved by the conservative Guardian Council, which oversees Iran’s elections and is close to Khamenei. Even many hard-liners believe the council will disqualify Ahmadinejad and Baghaei, who was briefly jailed on corruption charges.
The council is expected to finalize the list of candidates in about two weeks.
In one sign of official discontent with his move, several pro-Ahmadinejad websites were blocked in Iran beginning Wednesday morning.
Ahmadinejad perhaps sees an opening in the May 19 elections because Iran’s conservatives have not rallied around a credible challenger to his successor, President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who has championed better ties with the West. Ahmadinejad was barred from seeking a third consecutive four-year term, but is now eligible again.
Conservatives believe Rouhani is vulnerable because the economy remains weak despite the deal he made to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of most international sanctions.
While in office from 2005 to 2013, Ahmadinejad instituted a program of cash transfers that was popular with working-class Iranians. But the policy also fueled hyperinflation that experts say left Iran’s economy weaker in the long run.
Ahmadinejad’s popularity faded further as his combative persona and support for the nuclear program alienated the West and led to the harshest sanctions ever imposed on a country.
He also clashed with the supreme leader over top political appointments, and his disputed 2009 reelection prompted the largest protests in Iran in a generation.
The ensuing crackdown saw thousands detained and dozens of dissidents arrested, the memory of which Khamenei was likely referring to when he said an unnamed candidate – widely understood to be Ahmadinejad – should not run again because it would “polarize” the country.
Khamenei’s office did not issue any immediate reaction to Ahmadinejad’s attempt to run.
“Whatever was former President Ahmadinejad’s motivation in defying the supreme leader’s advice, it will be a detrimental blow to his political career,” Khosrou Dehghan, an analyst close to Iran’s reformist camp, posted on Telegram, a social media app.
Some analysts believe the conservative favored by the clerical and military establishment is Ebrahim Raeisi, a former judge best known for ordering thousands of political prisoners to be put to death in the 1980s.
“The ruling theocracy is busy grooming Ebrahim Raeisi,” said Hojjat Kalashi, a secular analyst, adding that Raeisi could later emerge — even if he does not win the election — as a possible successor to the aging Khamenei.
“I think Ahmadinejad can’t mobilize crowds,” Kalashi said. “He will be disqualified and, to some degree, silenced.”
- Assad Allies Say U.S. Attack On Syria Air Base Crosses 'Red Lines'
- 14 Iranian Artists Explore Just How Complex Identity Can Be
- Republican Governors Keep Vetoing Legislation That Would Make Voting Easier
- France election: Far-left Melenchon enjoys late poll surge
- In surprise move, Iran's Ahmadinejad to run for president
- Warplanes strike Syrian town hit by chemical attack last week
- Can Bernier or O'Leary lead a Conservative caucus that wants O'Toole or Scheer?
- Liberal budget focuses on how women matter in Canada's economy
- Ruling party candidate claims win in Ecuadorian vote, rival vows challenge
- Scandal-hit François Fillon stays in French presidential race, but rivals sense openings
- Trump talks tough on Iran, but can he bring jailed Americans home?
- Somalia wants to revive its national currency after a 26-year break. Here’s how.
You might also like
- Dan Stevens channels his beastly side in 'Beauty and the Beast' prologue dance
- How the new 'Beauty and the Beast' empowers Belle's inner feminist with books, not boys
- Carrie Fisher's 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' scenes will not be changed, plus new details about the Han Solo film
- Women rule, and other lessons from Universal's CinemaCon presentation
- Two black employees sue Fox News, accusing their ex-boss of racist behavior
- Theater owner group CEO: Blaming theatrical windows for piracy is 'completely crazy'
- NBC's 2018 Olympics coverage will air live in all time zones
- Disney film executive delivers sobering message on changing cinema business
- Studios want to get you rental movies much quicker — for a price
- Jim Gianopulos is tasked with turning around struggling Paramount Pictures
- Writers Guild of America will ask members to authorize a strike as contract talks falter
- Dodgers TV standoff lives on as AT&T, Justice settle lawsuit
- Powerful South Carolina political consultant implicated in indictments of a veteran state senator
- Will Donald Trump get a second Supreme Court nomination?
- "Hazing" rituals await Supreme Court's "junior justice" Neil Gorsuch
- The hunt is on for Planet Nine. Here's how to join it
- Trump approves controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
- Trump praises 'Fox & Friends,' renews old feuds in early morning tweets
- Rex Tillerson finally answers question from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell
- First Read's Morning Clips: The Latest in the Russia Investigation
- Spicer: 'I've let the president down'
- Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday
- OMB Diriector Mick Mulvaney: Washington's 'a lot more broken' than Trump thought
- Trump attacks conservatives over failure of health care bill
- A very consequential week didn't go well for President Trump
- Health Care Showdown: Republicans look to go big or go home
- No deal on health care bill after conservatives meet with Trump
- CA gov on those supporting health bill: 'Their name is going to be mud'
- Give it to me straight, doc: Is Obamacare dying?
- First Read's Morning Clips: Waiting for CBO
- 14 People Share What's It's Really Like to Have An Ex Who Is Now Their In-Law
- The Internet Is Freaking Out About The Way This Chef Cuts Pizza
Recent middle east
- American medics try to heal Mosul
- Syrian fighters start evacuating from last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs
- With nowhere to turn, refugees crowd makeshift camps as they flee the Islamic State in Iraq
- U.S. military denies airstrike hit mosque in Syria, following reports of dozens killed
- Israel reportedly launches strike on Syria as tensions rise
- U.S. airstrike was responsible for civilian deaths in Mosul, Iraqi officials say
- Here's some of what we know about the apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria
- Syria's Assad was in a strong position a week ago. A suspected chemical attack changed everything
- Nearly 300 died in Mosul airstrike, making it one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in recent memory
- Syrian President Assad faces international pressure to step down, but in Damascus there is a mood of defiance
- After deadly bombings, Egypt's state of emergency reassures some but strikes fear in others
- Assad's victims happy, fearful after US strike
- As Erdogan consolidates power in Turkey, the Kurdish opposition faces crackdown
- The teachers are unpaid and danger is ever present, but Mosul's schools are reopening
- 'Old slavery mentality' is making a comback in lawless Libya, migrants say
- Islamic State attacks Iraq's oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk
- Families caught in crossfire in western Mosul
- Mosul offensive: Assyrian artifacts discovered in abandoned ISIS tunnels
- Israel travel ban: Boycott supporters to be turned away
- 'Toxic stress' of war on Syria's children detailed in report