Candidates began signing up on Tuesday for Iran's June 18 presidential polls, with the clerical establishment hoping for a high turnout in a vote seen as a referendum on the handling of the Islamic Republic’s political and economic crises.
Turnout may be hit by rising discontent over steep hikes in consumer prices and high unemployment, as the economy has been crippled by U.S. sanctions re-imposed after the United States in 2018 pulled out of Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
News agencies close to the hardliners said prominent hardline cleric and judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi was expected to announce his candidacy.
"Following an increase in popular requests from Ayatollah Raisi for his candidacy in the presidential election, information obtained by Tanim's reporter indicates that his candidacy has been confirmed," the semi-official news agency Tasnim said. The agency Fars carried a similar report.
Earlier on Tuesday, Saeed Mohammad, the former head of a large construction and engineering conglomerate owned by the Revolutionary Guards, signed up to run.
But Mohammad and several other hardliners have said they would withdraw their candidacy if Raisi decided to run.
After being named to head the judiary by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi has emerged as one of Iran’s most powerful figures and a contender to succeed Khamenei.
Registration for the election will run for five days, after which entrants will be screened for their political and Islamic qualifications by a hardline vetting body, the Guardian Council, which has in the past disqualified many moderate aspirants.
President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist whose government is engaged in talks in Vienna with world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that led to removal of global financial and trade sanctions, cannot seek re-election, having served two consecutive four-year terms.
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