He's Back! Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Run Again

He's Back! Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad to Run Again

Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has stunned the country by putting himself forward as a candidate for next month's presidential election.

Ahmadinejad previously said he wasn't going to run after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei advised him not to.

Speaking after submitting his paperwork Mr Ahmadinejad said he was only helping his former vice-president, Hamid Baghaei, who registered alongside him.

Since the 1990s, he said, the choices by conservative grandees have lost every time - either to more reformist candidates, or in the case of Ahmadinejad, to a hardline populist who refused to play ball with the establishment in a way that many have lately compared to Donald Trump. But after his registration on Wednesday, Mr Ahmadinejad told journalists that Ayatollah Khamenei's recommendation was "just advice", Iranian media reported.

His candidacy must be approved by the conservative Guardian Council, which oversees Iran's elections and is close to Khamenei.

May's election is widely expected to be won by current moderate President Hassan Rouhani, best known outside the country for his negotiation of a nuclear deal with world powers.

Ahmadinejad left office in August 2013 after two turbulent four-year terms, leaving the country divided domestically, isolated internationally and struggling economically.

He also clashed with the supreme leader over top political appointments, and his disputed 2009 reelection prompted the largest protests in Iran in a generation.

Three weeks earlier when visiting Ahwaz, Ahmadinejad's comments sparked controversy especially after he vaguely criticized an unidentified authoritative figure. Then, on April 12 ex-President Ahmadinejad threw a curve ball into the race with his announcement that he intends to run.

"His disqualification by the Guardian Council would show that the council is not independent and follows the orders of the supreme leader", said political analyst Saeed Leylaz.

Ahmadinejad's candidacy may be a stunt to ensure at least one of his acolytes makes the cut.

Reactions of worry were quick to spread, as Raisi is an influential cleric with a close relationship with Khamenei. "Someone came to see me and considering his own interests and the interests of the country, I told him he should not participate in that matter [elections]", Khamenei was quoted by his official website previous year, referring to Ahmadinejad. Under that deal, Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of global sanctions.

Under his presidency, Iran not only enhanced and accelerated its nuclear programme, but expanded its already strong influence in Iraq and Syria, and further strengthened its hold on Lebanese politics through an aggressive strategy of support for local Shia jihadist proxy Hezbollah.

"He said he was not telling me either to come or not to come".