Two last-minute candidates stir up Iran presidential race

The Los Angeles Times reports: The run-up to Iran’s June presidential election took a dramatic turn Saturday with last-minute candidacy announcements by two controversial political figures: former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, top aide to outgoing incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the final moments before the five-day registration period expired, Rafsanjani and Mashaei arrived via separate entrances at the Interior Ministry, where all would-be candidates were required to sign up by 6 p.m. Saturday.

Their cinematic entrance prompted cheers from rival groups of supporters who had gathered outside. Scuffles then erupted between the two groups, and order was not restored until police responded.

Ahmadinejad accompanied Mashaei, and the longtime friends held their hands aloft in a show of mutual support. Mashaei thanked the departing president, barred by law from seeking a third four-year term, for encouraging him to run.

Despite the theatrics, neither of the two candidates is guaranteed a place on the June 14 ballot. The Guardian Council, composed of senior clerics and jurists, vets candidates to determine who is qualified to run based on a series of criteria.

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