Rafsanjani’s last-minute entry transforms Iranian race | Reuters
By Yeganeh Torbati and Marcus George
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani threw himself into Iran’s election race on Saturday as a flurry of heavyweight candidates rushed to beat the registration deadline in the most unpredictable contest for decades.
Iranian media reported that Rafsanjani - a relative moderate - had registered for the June 14 presidential election with just minutes to spare. His candidacy radically alters what was previously seen as a contest between rival conservative groups.
The former president could scupper the hopes of ‘Principlists’, loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who are aiming to secure a quick and painless transition and paper over the deep fissures between the opposing camps.
Rafsanjani, 78, who was president from 1989 to 1997, is expected to draw some support from reformists because he backed the opposition movement whose protests were crushed after the last, disputed election in 2009.
The election comes at a critical moment, as Iran reels from international sanctions over its disputed atomic program and faces the threat of attack by Israel if it crosses what the Jewish state calls a ‘red line’ towards acquiring a nuclear weapon. Tehran strenuously denies it wants an atomic bomb.