Iran has tightened security in the capital, Tehran, since late yesterday with less than two days to go before officials announce the shortlist of candidates allowed to run in next month’s presidential election.
Police including anti-riot units have been deployed to several main squares in Tehran. About 100 were stationed in the northwestern Sanhat and Sahadat Abad squares into the night. Today, as many as 40 gathered around the central Vanak square, armed with batons.
Iranians will vote on June 14 for a replacement to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is not eligible to run for a third term. The Guardian Council, which vets presidential candidates, is set to submit its approved shortlist to the Interior Ministry today, and the ministry is scheduled to announce that by May 23.
With an economy feeling the strain of international sanctions imposed to halt its nuclear program, and Israel and the U.S. threatening military action, Iran’s leaders have signaled they prefer a presidential contest less divisive than the last one in 2009. Ahmadinejad’s re-election triggered allegations of ballot fraud to defeat a reformist candidate, and street protests that were violently crushed.
Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will be excluded from the shortlist, state-run Mehr news agency reported today, citing an unofficial list obtained by its correspondent.
Rafsanjani challenged the 2009 crackdown, urging respect for the opposition and the release of detainees. That helped sideline him politically, and in the past year two of his children were jailed on charges of inciting unrest.
Ahmadinejad’s aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, was also barred, while eight candidates have been cleared to run by the Guardian Council, Mehr reported. They will include foreign policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati, nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mehr said.
The Guardian Council was considering more than 600 applications and typically reduces the field to less than a dozen who are considered to have proved their loyalty to the Islamic Republic.
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