Ex-President Ahmadinejad registers for May presidential election

Though Mr Rouhani has yet to formally register, many viewed him as a shoe-in following supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recommendation in September for Mr Ahmadinejad not to run.

Ahmadinejad was a two-term president taking the office for 8 years, before President Hassan Rouhani won the 2013 election.

"I am still committed to my moral promise".

Only last week, flanked by his former deputy at his first press conference in four years, Ahmadinejad said he had "no plans to present myself".

The Supreme Leader said past year, without naming Ahmadinejad, that the former president's candidacy is not in the interest of the Iranian people, thus calling on him not to run.

Candidate Hamid Baghaei kisses former boss Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after registering his candidacy.

"End of Ahmadinejad", tweeted Elyas Naderan, another conservative former MP.

The May 19 election is seen by many in Iran as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and its ability to improve the country's sanctions-hobbled economy. When Khamenei approved the re-election in a ceremony with Ahmadinejad in Tehran, the two engaged in an awkward embrace in which Ahmadinejad did not kiss the ayatollah's hand as he had done in the past, but instead sort of nuzzled the leader's shoulder.

"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.

Mr Raisi, 57, heads Astan Qods Razavi, an organisation in charge of a multibillion-dollar religious foundation that manages donations to Iran's holiest Shi'ite Muslim shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad. They also stand opposed to Iran's backing of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Two of his former vice presidents have been jailed for corruption since he left office, and Iran's economy suffered under heavy worldwide sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. "The recovery, however, has yet to reach most ordinary Iranians".

Ahmadinejad does, however, maintain popularity among the poor for his populist policies and subsidies he offered while in office.

Before his 2013 election, Rouhani stressed that one of his priorities was to help his country financially by making it less isolated and more a part of, rather than a target of, the worldwide community.

  • Rogelio Becker