Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad: US 'cannot hurt Iran'

Earlier this week, Iran's election commission had announced two days ago that the number of candidates has exceeded 950 candidates, most notably - other than Rouhani and Raisi - is the contentious ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his former deputy Hamid Baghaei.

"Despite all the efforts of previous governments, the situation of the country is such that people ask why is there so much unemployment?" he said, adding that he would announce detailed economic plans at a later date.

Human rights issues, including the ongoing house arrest of Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, were a significant part of Rouhani's presidential campaign in 2013, but he failed to follow through on any promises in this area.

In the ceremony, held at Iran Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (IHSRC) in Tehran, President Rouhani unveiled Kowsar, the country's first jet aircraft used for training. But Ahmadinejad says he's not fazed by Trump or the United States in general, and asserts America's foreign policy decisions in other countries will not intimidate the people of Iran.

The nuclear deal was engineered by the Rouhani administration and went into effect in 2016. The last similar turnout was Iran's 2005 election, which saw more than 1,000 register.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani takes part in a news conference near the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of NY, U.S., September 22, 2016.

Ahmadinejad also voiced reluctant support for Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with the USA and other world powers, which saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling global sanctions.

Nevertheless, the aggregate opposition to Rouhani's candidacy is so serious that some hardliners have even put forth the idea of having his candidacy disqualified by the Guardian Council, which will vet all prospective candidates by April 27 for their perceived loyalty to the theocratic regime and the principles of the Islamic Republic.

The 56-year-old judge, who now runs the powerful charity-cum-business-empire Astan Qods Razavi, has emphasised his concern for the poor and is seen as a close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The council controls elections and must approve all laws passed by parliament.

A third prominent contender is the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "In the Islamic Republic, the officials and the supreme leader have approved of it and declared their commitment to it", he said.

His father-in-law leads Friday prayers in Mashhad and both have seats on the Assembly of Experts that will choose the next supreme leader - a position for which Raisi himself is often rumoured to be in the running.

  • Elsie Buchanan