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Iranian President Rouhani registers to run in May for a second term

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Ebrahim Noroozi  AP

Incumbent President Hasan Fereidun Rouhani is favored to win re-election, and an Ahmadinejad candidacy would split the hardline vote, giving the advantage to President Rouhani.

Iran's election is a complex process that is partially managed and partially reflects the popular will. Asked about Ahmadinejad's decision, one Tehran-based analyst offered a blunt assessment.

Another potentially strong candidate for the presidency is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

During the registration in Iran's Interior Ministry, Ahmadinejad, expressed hope for victory. Judge and cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the leading hardline candidate, however, Khamenei has yet to unite the hardliners behind him. However, the 60-year-old former leader has opted to take the warning as "just advice". In 2013, it prevented ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running.

"It's in clear defiance of what the supreme leader had stated very openly and very publicly", said Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

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The Spokesman-Review reveals that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to AP directly from his office in the nation's capital of Tehran, and essentially scoffed at the idea that Iran's government could possibly be threatened by the likes of Donald Trump and the USA government. This election is crucial for Iran as it is seen as a referendum on the nuclear deal it reached in 2015 with global powers. After leaving the office of President in 2013 at the end of two controversial terms, the firebrand populist has been largely inactive in politics. Iran's economy suffered under heavy worldwide sanctions during his administration because of Western suspicions that Tehran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran has claimed the program is for peaceful purposes.

Previous experience shows that the council members reject most of the candidates leaving the most dignified ones, so the final number of presidential candidates is unlikely to exceed ten. It will announce its list of approved candidates by April 27. And the website's figures for the year 2016 are actually lower than those reported by some other human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, which finds that at least 567 people were put to death by the government that year. Ahmadinejad himself described his decision to run as meant to help Baghaei.

The foundation hosts 20 million pilgrims a year at the shrine, and has also developed into a sprawling, multi-billion-dollar conglomerate that runs everything from farms and power plants to brokerages and IT firms.

The May 19 polls are widely seen as a referendum on the landmark 2015 nuclear deal for the Islamic republic to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling worldwide sanctions, and are expected to be a battle between reformists and hardliners. However, critics say Iranians have yet to feel the economic benefits.

A large number of conservatives appear to throw their full support behind Raisi who now holds the position of the custodian of a wealthy charity and the organization in charge of the holiest Shia shrine of Iran based in the city of Mashhad.

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