Former chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani arrives at the… (Abedin Taherkenareh / European…)
TEHRAN — Iranian presidential candidates began registering Tuesday for the national election next month to choose a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Although there has been considerable political suspense over who will run, voter enthusiasm has appeared lukewarm as many Iranians are focused on economic survival in a nation battered by Western sanctions.
About two dozen potential presidential hopefuls have emerged publicly so far. Office-seekers must register by Saturday to be considered for inclusion on the ballot.
The June 14 presidential election will be the first since the disputed 2009 balloting, when Ahmadinejad won a second term amid vote-rigging allegations that triggered massive street protests. The reformist leaders from 2009 remain under house arrest.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made it clear that 2009-style chaos will not be tolerated. Several conservative candidates close to Khamenei are considered early favorites to succeed Ahmadinejad, who is barred by law from seeking a third term.
Among those registering Tuesday were Hassan Rowhani, who formerly headed Iran's nuclear negotiating team. In comments to reporters, Rowhani pledged to pursue "diplomatic engagement" and seek progress on stalled nuclear talks with world powers.
Iran faces a looming confrontation with the West and Israel about its controversial nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear efforts are for peaceful purposes, but U.S. officials suspect that Iran may be seeking atomic weapons capability.
As election day nears, there is considerable intrigue about the prospective candidacies of several high-profile political figures.
A major question is whether either of two former presidents — Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami — would seek the office again. Both are considered moderates.
Many are also watching to see if Ahmadinejad's close aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, will enter the race. The president has lost favor with many but is keen to preserve his influence after leaving office.
To be on the ballot, all candidates must pass muster with the powerful Guardian Council, made up of clerics and jurists.
Mostaghim is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.