Iran’s former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been disqualified from running in next month’s presidential election.
The Guardian Council, a clerical body tasked with vetting the candidates, on Thursday did approve the candidacy of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.
Rouhani, a relative moderate, will face off against a field that includes two prominent hard-liners: Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf.
Other presidential candidates who made the cut, according to an Interior Ministry statement carried by state TV, include moderate Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former conservative Culture Minister Mostafa Mirsalim, and former pro-reform Vice President Mostafa Hashemitaba.
Ahmadinejad announced his candidacy last week in a surprise move, despite being advised against it by Khamenei. The former president, a deeply polarizing figure even among Iranian hard-liners, left office in 2013 after two turbulent terms, leaving the country domestically divided and internationally isolated.
He was best known abroad for his incendiary rhetoric toward Israel, his questioning of the scale of the Holocaust and his efforts to ramp up Iran’s nuclear program. Upon registering, he said he was doing so to support his former Vice President Hamid Baghaei, who also failed to receive approval to run.
Under Iran’s clerically overseen system, the president is subordinate to Khamenei, who is Iran’s top decision-maker and has the final say on all matters of state.
Rouhani, 68, is hoping voters will deliver him a second term to see out his promises of greater personal freedoms at home and openness to the wider world, as he works to turn around Iran’s sagging economy — a top priority for many voters.
The election will be in many ways a referendum on his administration’s negotiation of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. That agreement gave Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear program, but has been assailed by hard-liners.