Tehran, Iran (AP) – A former speaker of Iran’s parliament on Saturday registered to run in the Islamic Republic’s next presidential election, becoming the first high-profile candidate to potentially support the policies of the outgoing administration which has concluded Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Ali Larijani, long a prominent conservative voice who later allied with relatively moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, came on the last day of registration for the June 18 elections. While a panel overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will ultimately endorse the candidates, Larijani has maintained close ties to the cleric during his decades in government.
Journalists in Tehran watched Larijani, 63, register with the Interior Ministry, which oversees the elections. He greeted onlookers after completing the process with his face covered in a blue surgical mask as Iran continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Larijani, a former commander of the Iranian Paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, previously served as Minister of Culture and Islamic Direction and head of the Iranian state television station. Under the leadership of extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he served as secretary of Iran’s powerful Supreme National Security Council for two years and as chief nuclear negotiator. He then became speaker of the Iranian parliament for around 12 years, stepping down in May 2020.
Larijani’s family includes prominent members of the Iranian theocracy, his religious brother having previously been the head of Iranian justice. Her father was a prominent Ayatollah.
Larijani played an active role in signing a 25-year strategic agreement with China earlier this year. On Friday, as a sign of respect, Larijani reportedly asked for permission to flee high-ranking clerics from the religious city of Qom.
In Iran, the candidates exist on a political spectrum that largely includes extremists who want to expand Iran’s nuclear program, moderates who maintain the status quo, and reformists who want to change the theocracy from within.
Those calling for radical change are even barred from standing for election by the Council of Guardians, a 12-member panel that reviews and approves candidates under Khamenei’s oversight.
“Like incumbent President Rouhani, Larijani is someone Khamenei trusts to represent Iran without compromising the regime’s basic tenets of religious oversight of society and independence from citizens. foreign powers, ”wrote Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran initiative at the Atlantic Council recently.
A clear candidate has not yet emerged among the reformists. Some have mentioned Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, though he later said he was not chasing a scandal over a leaked recording in which he was candid in criticizing the Guard and the limits of civilian government power.
At the same time, Larijani signed up, as did Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, the eldest son of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani, a member of Tehran’s city council, has been called a reformist by political commentators.
Several other candidates have strong backgrounds in the Guard, a paramilitary force reporting only to Khamenei. Extremists have increasingly suggested that a former military commander should be president given the country’s problems, which has not happened since the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979 and the purge of the armed forces that followed.
Former Iranian extremist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also signed up on Wednesday. Although his attempt to run in 2017 was ultimately blocked after Khamenei criticized Ahmadinejad, this year the Supreme Leader did not warn him.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.