Incumbent Iranian President Rouhani to run for second term

Rouhani, 68, joins candidates including former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made a surprise announcement earlier this week, and conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, an ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waves to media as he arrives at the Interior Ministry to register his candidacy for the May 19 presidential elections, in Tehran, Iran, Friday, April 14, 2017. Associated Press journalists said election officials were "stunned" when he submitted his paperwork against the supreme leader's warning, but Mr Ahmadinejad said the words were "just advice".

When he was head of government from 2005 to 2013, Ahmadinejad repeatedly questioned the Holocaust, called for Israel's destruction and expanded Iran's nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad, who under Iranian law became eligible to run again after four years out of office, remains a divisive figure. Iran's economy suffered under heavy global sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009 sparked massive protests and a sweeping crackdown in which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed.

Mr Ahmadinejad went against advice from the supreme leader, who warned him past year that running was "not in his interest and that of the country". While many delegations have come since the lifting of sanctions, "people are not seeing a huge elevation for Iran in terms of the economy or its place on the worldwide stage", she said.

Ahmadinejad registered for presidential election along with his close aide, former vice-president Hamid Baqayee.

However, Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that the Supreme Leader never barred him from rerunning for the presidency.

At least 638 have registered in the first three days of the process through Thursday, more than twice the number that had registered during the same period in 2013.

The Guardian Council, a clerical body that oversees elections, is expected to bar most candidates and will announce an approved list by April 27. The council normally does not approve dissidents or women.

Khamenei and his hardline allies have strongly criticized the slow pace of economic revival since the lifting of sanctions a year ago, part of the nuclear deal with six major powers whereby Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program.

  • Rogelio Becker