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Iranian presidential candidates announced; Rafsanjani disqualified

The final list of candidates approved to run in Iran’s June 14 presidential election was announced yesterday, generating surprise and tension with the omission of a former president considered one of the founding members of the Islamic Republic.

In addition to two-term ex-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, was also disqualified from the ballot, although no immediate reason was given why. Both men were last-minute and somewhat controversial registrants, but their omission could cause a backlash from rivals of Iran’s conservative establishment.

Conservatives including Tehran’s current mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and the country’s lead nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, dominate the list of eight candidates approved by the Guardian Council.

Large groups of riot police, the kind that patrolled Tehran’s streets in the days after the contested 2009 re-election of Ahmadinejad, patrolled on motorcycles throughout the capital yesterday for the first time in more than a year, perhaps in anticipation of the candidate announcement.

Many people had anticipated Mashaei’s disqualification because of attempts
he and Ahmadinejad had made to undermine the authority of Iran’s clergy. But Rafsanjani’s removal from the race was less expected, despite a systematic campaign to discredit the 78-year-old’s potential candidacy that began almost as soon as he signed up Saturday in the final moments of the registration process.

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