Khamenei ally to run in Iran presidential elections
A hardline ally of Iran's supreme leader has announced his intention to run in the May presidential elections against the current President Hassan Rouhani, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.
The Sunday report said Ebrahim Raisi announced his readiness in a statement in which he said the country is suffering from "structural chronic illness and incorrect managerial traditions."
Iranian hardliners had hope Raisi would challenge Rouhani, who is eligible to run for a second term.
The statement said: "The first step for change is to form a powerful and aware administration for serving people and fighting discrimination, poverty and corruption."
In 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Raisi as the head of the Imam Reza charity foundation that owns huge business conglomerate and endowments in Iran.
Perceived by many as a moderate figure in Iranian politics, Rouhani has improved ties with the West, and signed a landmark nuclear deal with the US and five other states in 2016.
While he has also pushed for greater social freedoms in Iranian society - and gained popularity for stabilising the economy - Rouhani has faced charges of failing to curb grave state-sponsored human rights abuses, and failing to live up to pledges to see political dissidents released from jail.
Rouhani is widely expected to run for a second term but is yet to formally announce his candidacy for the 19 May election. He leads a relatively unified coalition of supporters on the moderate and reformist sides of Iran's political spectrum.
Hamid Baghaie, a former deputy to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in power between 2005 and 2013, has formally announced his candidacy, running as an independent having fallen out of favour with conservatives.
The deadline for candidates to announce their intentions to run is April 15. The country's Guardian Council - the highest political body in the country, overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei - then has 10 days to approve the candidates.
The consequent campaign season then lasts only two weeks - from April 28 until May 17 - when a winner is expected to be announced.