Iran's hard-line judiciary chief registers presidential run

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Ebrahim Raisi, head of Iran's judiciary waves to media as he attends at the Interior Ministry to register his candidacy for the June 18 presidential elections at the elections headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

DUBAI – Iran's judiciary chief, a hard-line cleric linked to mass executions in 1988, registered on Saturday to run in the Islamic Republic’s presidential election next month, a vote that comes as negotiators struggle to resuscitate Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

The cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, is among the more prominent hopefuls — he garnered nearly 16 million votes in the 2017 election. He lost that race to Iran's relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration struck the atomic accord.

Raisi's close ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his popularity — due partly to his televised anti-corruption campaign — could make him a favorite in the election. Analysts already believe that hard-liners enjoy an edge as Rouhani is term limited from running again. The public has widely grown disenchanted with Rouhani's administration after 2018, when then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal.

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, offered fiery remarks to journalists at the Interior Ministry as he registered. He vowed that if he wins the June 18 vote, corruption will be “dried up.”

“Those who founded and partnered with the current situation can’t claim they can change it,” Raisi said. “People are complaining about the current situation. They are upset. Their disappointment is on the rise. This should be stopped.”

The 60-year-old sought to strike a populist note, urging the public to donate to his campaign and “turn their homes into election headquarters” as he wasn't wealthy.

“We need individuals who believe in change,” he said.

Raisi had been named as a possible successor to Iran’s 82-year-old supreme leader, leading some to suggest he wouldn’t run in the race. His entry immediately saw some hard-liners announce they would withdraw, raising Raisi's prominence further among the candidates.