Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, center, registers… (Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA )
TEHRAN -- The run-up to Iran’s June presidential elections took a dramatic turn Saturday when two controversial figures -- former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, top aide to outgoing incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- made last-minute candidacy announcements.
Waiting until minutes before the five-day registration period concluded, Rafsanjani and Mashaei arrived via separate entrances at the Interior Ministry, where all would-be candidates were required to sign up by 6 p.m. Tehran time on Saturday.
After drawing cheers from rival groups of supporters gathered outside, scuffles then erupted between the two groups. Police were called in to restore order.
President Ahmadinejad accompanied Mashaei and the longtime friends held their hands aloft in a show of mutual support. Mashaei thanked the departing president, barred by term limits from running for a third term, for encouraging him to run.
Despite Saturday’s theatrics, neither of the two candidates is guaranteed a place on June 14 ballot. The Guardian Council, composed of senior clerics and jurists, vets candidates to determine who is qualified to run based on a series of criteria.
Also among the those registering Saturday was Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, who is seen as a hard-liner close to the supreme leader.
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