A total of 686 candidates are vying replace Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the country’s upcoming June national election, Iran’s state-run Press TV reported.
Among those who have registered to be considered for the post are Ahmadinejad’s top aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Ahmadinejad, who is term-limited and cannot run for a third straight term, has been grooming Mashaei to take over for years, CNN reported.
The two are like-minded in their nationalism and shared disdain for the clerical establishment, said Geneive Abdo, a fellow at the Stimson Center’s Middle East Program and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, according to CNN.
However the Guardian Council, which is controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been tasked with approving candidates and deciding who may run for president, Abdo said.
The council is not expected to allow anyone from the so-called “deviant faction” of Ahmadinejad’s supporters to run, she said, according to CNN.
Rafsanjani, on the other hand, has long been a staunch critic and bitter political rival of Ahmadinejad’s. He served two terms as president from 1989 to 1997.
Rafsanjani condemned the regime’s violent crackdown against the opposition movement following the 2009 elections and has advocated for the people’s right to protest peacefully.