TEHRAN, May 12 (Xinhua) — The latest report released by Iran’s Interior Ministry showed a total of 686 candidates have registered for the upcoming presidential election slated for June 14.
Among the contestants from diverse walks of life, a number of prominent conservative and moderate political figures as well as incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s independent candidate have more chances of winning the race.
Several conservative figures, or “principlists,” as some of them prefer to be referred to, have signed up for the forthcoming race.
On Saturday afternoon when the registration deadline was about to terminate, to many’s surprise, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili appeared in Iran’s Interior Ministry and made an announcement about his decision to run for the country’s upcoming presidential contest.
Other hopefuls, either before or on the registration day, made comments on their campaigns, but Jalili left the Interior Ministry without making any remarks or talking to reporters.
A hardliner conservative, he currently leads Iran’s negotiation team with the world powers on the country’s nuclear issue and is also secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
On Saturday, Mayor of Iranian capital Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, also signed up for the election.
Qalibaf, a member of the Principlist Coalition of 2+1 which also includes former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Velayati, told reporters that he runs for president to turn words into actions.
Commenting on Iran’s nuclear issue, he said that “Today, the Islamic establishment enjoys key opportunities in international arena and in diplomatic sectors to take fast paces to resolve the nuclear issue.”
He also said he will fight against financial corruption and discrimination in close cooperation with Iran’s judiciary system.
Besides, Velayati vowed on Saturday to protect the ” achievements” in the country’s nuclear program, after recently saying that amicable ties with neighboring states will serve Iran’ s national interests and guarantee its national security.
Velayati, who currently serves as a senior advisor to Supreme Leader of the Islamic republic Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he will do his utmost to ease sanctions slapped on Iran by Western governments over the country’s disputed nuclear project.
On Saturday, former moderate President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani also entered Iran’s presidential race in the last minute.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani, in office from 1989 to 1997, said the reason behind his decision to re-run for president is that “he wants to serve” the people and the country. He has got support from ex-Iranian reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani, currently chairman of the Expediency Council of Iran, has recently put forward the idea of forming a ” national unity government” which calls for a moderate government from both conservative and reformist camps to manage the country.
Earlier, he said Iran is never after building nuclear weapons, stressing that every country, including the Islamic republic, has the right to take advantage of the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy.
Western countries are making a grave mistake by raising suspicions about the nuclear activities of Iran in the international arena, he said.
On Saturday, some of the moderate hopefuls, including ex- nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani, said they will consider withdrawing from the race in favor of Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
Despite urges by reformist groups, Khatami did not partake in the coming presidential election. According to a report by Tehran Times daily, Khatami said that situation is not ripe for free competition.
“An election in which everything goes normal, there is a way to come to power and its criterion is the vote of the people. But we are in a situation where the election mechanism (in Iran) is flawed in this respect,” Khatami was quoted as saying.
As a third force, however, incumbent President Ahmadinejad plans to back his own candidate independently to inherit his populist policy which envisages a nationalist-Islamist doctrine.
On Saturday, Ahmadinejad’s top aide and confidant Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, said after registration for the presidential race that he will follow Ahmadinejad’s steps in all aspects if he wins the campaign.
That different classes of society are urging him to run and that he wants to create “political epic” are the motivations behind his candidacy.
Ahmadinejad, who was accompanying Rahim-Mashaei during his registration ceremony, told reporters that Rahim-Mashaei enjoys the strong points of the Iranian nation.
“Ahmadinejad is Rahim-Mashaei and Rahim-Mashaei is Ahmadinejad, ” said the Iranian president enthusiastically.
Through eight years of presidency, Ahmadinejad has mustered considerable influence in government institutions and Iran’s countryside. His endorsement can bolster Rahim-Mashaei’s support from rural voters, but he still needs approval from the Guardian Council of Constitution to run.
Rahim-Mashaei is detested by many senior clerics and conservative politicians who accuse him of leading a “deviant current” that puts Iranian nationalism on par with Islam.
Guardian Council of Constitution, as the main legislative body of the country, is supposed to study the qualification of the candidates in two weeks’ time.
The president of Iran is elected for a four-year term through a national election.
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