Iran’s supreme leader has told former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to stand again in next year’s elections, state media reported on Monday, effectively eliminating a major challenger to pragmatist incumbent Hassan Rouhani.
Ahmadinejad had not announced any plans to run in the vote scheduled for May, but has made several speeches in recent months, prompting speculation of a political comeback.
Commentators had suggested the firebrand populist, who frequently enraged the West with his rhetoric during his eight years in office, would have given Iran’s conservatives their best chance of regaining power.
But the instruction by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reported by state news agency IRNA, effectively destroys his chances of getting the wider backing he would need to run a successful campaign.
“He (Ahmadinejad) came to me and I told him not to stand as I think it is not in his interest and that of the country,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.
“It will create bipolar opposites and divisions in the country which I believe is harmful,” Khamenei added.