Seven of About 590 Candidates Approved to Run in Iran's Presidential Election

Seven of about 590 candidates were approved Tuesday to run in Iran's presidential election on June 18, with some barred from running because of their alliances to President Hassan Rouhani.

The most prominent candidate is Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's judiciary chief and a cleric who is linked to mass executions in the country in 1988. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is believed to favor Raisi.

Raisi said he wants election authorities to reconsider some of the candidates that were prevented from running. "I have made contacts and I am holding consultations to make the election scene more competitive and participatory," he tweeted.

The seven candidates were approved by Khamenei's 12-member Guardian Council. More candidates registered to run in the 2017 presidential election, a total of 1,630.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi greets journalists as he arrives to submit his candidacy for Iran's presidential elections, at the Interior Ministry ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for June on May 15, 2021, Tehran, Iran. Raisi is one of seven candidates that were approved for the presidential election out of about 590 others. Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Prominent candidates allied to Rouhani were barred amid tensions with the West over its tattered nuclear deal.

Raisi is the most-known candidate of the seven hopefuls, with opinion polling previously showing his anti-corruption campaign drew Iranian support.

But perhaps most notable was who Iran's Guardian Council barred from running. Chief among them was former parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative who allied with Rouhani in recent year. Larijani had been positioning himself as a pragmatic candidate who would back Rouhani's signature 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. That accord is now in tatters as diplomats in Vienna try to negotiate a return of both Iran and the U.S. to the agreement.

Larijani seemingly signaled he wouldn't fight the decision.

"I have done my duty before God and the dear nation, and I am satisfied," Larijani wrote on Twitter. "Thank you to all those who expressed their gratitude and I hope you will participate in the elections for the promotion of an Islamic Iran."

Also barred was former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Rouhani's senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a reformist. Ahmadinejad ignored a warning from Khamenei in 2017 and registered, only to be rejected then as well by the Guardian Council, a 12-member panel under Khamenei.

During an earlier session of parliament Tuesday, lawmaker Ahmad Alirezabeigi described Ahmadinejad's home as being "under siege" by security forces since the day before. He also warned that the decision would suppress turnout. Iran's theocracy since its 1979 Islamic Revolution has based its legitimacy in part on turnout in elections.

State TV earlier quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman of the Guardian Council, as saying "only seven" had been approved.

Raisi wrote on Twitter although it is a service technically banned by Iran since the 2009 unrest that surrounded Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.

As the head of the judiciary, Raisi oversees a justice system in Iran that remains one of the world's top executioners. United Nations experts and others have criticized Iran for detaining dual nationals and those with ties abroad to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.

Then there are the 1988 mass executions that came at the end of Iran's long war with Iraq. After Iran's then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini accepted a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, heavily armed by Saddam Hussein, stormed across the Iranian border in a surprise attack.

Iran ultimately blunted their assault, but the attack set the stage for the sham retrials of political prisoners, militants and others that would become known as "death commissions." Some who appeared were asked to identify themselves. Those who responded "mujahedeen" were sent to their deaths, while others were questioned about their willingness to "clear minefields for the army of the Islamic Republic," according to a 1990 Amnesty International report.

International rights groups estimate that as many as 5,000 people were executed, while the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq puts the number at 30,000. Iran has never fully acknowledged the executions, apparently carried out on Khomeini's orders, though some argue that other top officials were effectively in charge in the months before his 1989 death.

Raisi, then a deputy prosecutor in Tehran, took part in some of the panels at Evin and Gohardasht prisons. A tape of a meeting of Raisi and his boss meeting prominent Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri leaked out in 2016, with Montazeri describing the executions as "the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic."

Raisi never publicly acknowledged his role in the executions while campaigning for president in 2017. After his loss, Khamenei appointed him as head of the judiciary in 2019.

Others named as candidates Tuesday include Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator; Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guard commander; Ali Reza Zakani, a former lawmaker; Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh, a current lawmaker; Mohsen Mehralizadeh, a former provincial governor; and Abdolnasser Hemmati, the current head of Iran's Central Bank.

Ebrahim Raisi, Head of Iran's Judiciary
Ebrahim Raisi, head of Iran's judiciary waves to media as he attends at the Interior Ministry to register his candidacy for the June 18 presidential elections at the elections headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, May 15, 2021. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo