US-sanctioned ex-officer among Iranian candidates to replace Raisi

Vahid Haghanian, a former commander in the Revolutionary Guards, shows his identification document to the media while registering his name as a candidate for the June 28 presidential election at the Interior Ministry in Tehran, Iran, on June 1, 2024. [AP Photo]

U.S-sanctioned former Revolutionary Guards commander Vahid Haghanian is among the candidates who registered Saturday to become Iran's next president following the death in a helicopter crash of Ebrahim Raisi, state media reported.

Haghanian, a close aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told reporters after registering that his qualifications were based on "experience from serving 45 years in the presidency and the leader's office."

The U.S. Treasury designated Haghanian in 2019 among nine individuals in Khamenei's "inner circle responsible for advancing ... domestic and foreign oppression."

Iran says most U.S. sanctions are prompted by baseless accusations.

Former parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, a prominent conservative, was among candidates registering Friday, as was Abdolnasser Hemmati, a former central bank governor.

An election official told reporters Saturday that 12 hopefuls had registered since the process opened on Thursday for the June 28 election.

The Guardian Council will publish the list of qualified candidates on June 11.

The death of Raisi — who was once seen as a possible successor to Khamenei, Iran's ultimate decision-maker — has triggered a race among hardliners to influence the selection of the country's next leader.

After a five-day registration period, the clerical-led Guardian Council will vet candidates running for the presidency. Moderate politicians have accused the 12-member body of disqualifying rivals to hardline candidates, who are expected to dominate the race.

Turnout might take a hit because of restricted choice on the ballot and rising discontent over an array of political, social and economic crises.

Within Iran's complex mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters such as nuclear and foreign policies. But the elected president will oversee tackling the country’s worsening economic hardship.

Saeed Jalili, a former chief nuclear negotiator who two decades ago ran Khamenei's office for four years, was the first heavyweight hardliner to register for the election on Thursday.

Interim President Mohammad Mokhber has also been mentioned in Iranian media as a possible candidate.

Several more low-key moderate politicians are also likely to enter the race.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, another former Revolutionary Guards commander, who had been touted as a potential candidate, was reelected Tuesday as the speaker of parliament, making it less likely that he might run for the presidency.

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