Ahmadinejad’s brother replaces his close ally in Iran presidential race

‘My sole objective is to serve Iranian people’

TEHRAN - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks determined to maintain his family’s influence in Iran as conservatives accuse him of trying to undermine the mullahs’ regime.
According to Mehr news agency, the elder brother of the Iranian President came to the Interior Ministry Saturday morning to register his name as a candidate in the June presidential election.
Shortly after filing his candidacy, Ahmadinejad’s brother said that he would run "as an independent” and that his sole objective consists in serving the Iranian people.
Some observers believe that Ahmadinejad has probably resorted to drag his brother into the electoral marathon to avoid the nomination of his close ally and assistant Rahim Mashaei, who has not announced his participation in the election yet.
Conservatives are suspicious of Mashaei and consider him as a leader of a "deviant current" which seeks to undermine the influence of the religious leadership in favour of secular nationalism.
Ahmadinejad is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term.
His successor is expected to face an array of challenges, including Iran's worsening economy targeted by international sanctions over its uranium enrichment activities.
On Saturday, Iran's moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, veteran diplomat Ali Akbar Velayati, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili also registered to stand in the election, the first since 2009 which saw massive street protests erupting after Ahmadinejad's re-election.
Rafsanjani has been isolated since the 2009 presidential election, which saw massive street protests against the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Jalili, 47, joins several conservative hopefuls aiming to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran is expected to wrap up the five-day registration of candidates on Saturday, leaving the fate of the hopefuls in the hands of the Guardians Council, an unelected body controlled by religious conservatives appointed by Khamenei.
The council will vet the candidates to ensure they adhere to constitutional conditions of being faithful to the principles of the Islamic republic and its official religion, before announcing the final list of hopefuls no later than May 23.
Approved candidates will then have three weeks to campaign before polling day on June 14.