Former Iranian Leader Ahmadinejad Registers for Presidential Elections

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at a ceremony celebrating the Iran Pavilion Day during his visit in the Expo site in Shanghai, China, June 11, 2010.

The sudden passing of President Ebrahim Raissi in a helicopter crash has prompted Iran to call a presidential election on June 28. Following Raissi’s death, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has registered as a potential contender in an effort to reclaim the country’s top political position. 

Iran’s nuclear program, its support for Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, and the government’s crackdowns on dissidents have all contributed to the heightened tensions between Tehran and the West that have prompted Ahmadinejad’s return. 

With Tuesday marking the end of the five-day registration period and the Guardian Council promising to provide its final candidate list in ten days, the two-week campaign leading up to the vote in late June will be significantly condensed.

For the years 2005–2013, Mr. Ahmadinejad was in office for a total of four years. After four years out of government, he is eligible to run again under Iranian law, but even among fellow hard-liners, he remains a divisive figure. There were major ‘Green Movement’ protests, and a significant crackdown ensued after his dubious re-election in 2009, leading to the detention of thousands of people and the deaths of dozens. In Western eyes, he personified the darkest aspect of the Islamic Republic; he cast doubt on the Holocaust, denied the existence of homosexual and lesbian people in Iran, and dropped hints that the country might develop nuclear weapons if it so desired.

According to Ayatollah Khamenei’s 2017 warning to Mr. Ahmadinejad, returning to public service would create a polarized situation that would be harmful to the country. 

When the 12-person Guardian Council—a group of jurists and clerics ultimately supervised by Ayatollah Khamenei—rejected Mr. Ahmadinejad’s candidacy in 2021, he remained silent. 

No woman and no one arguing for a dramatic shift in the country’s leadership has ever been accepted by that group.

So far, Ayatollah Khamenei has not endorsed a candidate in the contest to succeed Mr. Raisi.