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Economy, nukes top agenda as Iran elects president

Iran elects on Friday a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose eight years in office have been marked by stiff Western sanctions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive and the economic turmoil they have caused.

When Ahmadinejad was re-elected for a second term in 2009, widespread charges of voter fraud sparked massive street protests.

Suppressed by a brutal state crackdown, those protests plunged Iran into its worst crisis since the establishment of the Islamic republic in 1979.

The Guardians Council, an unelected vetting body, approved only eight men out of 686 hopefuls to stand in the election, and the list is dominated by conservatives close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That fits with Khamenei’s desire for ‘an orderly, calm and undisputed election,’ said Alireza Nader, a researcher at the RAND Corporation, the American policy research institute.

At the forefront of a Western confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme, the United States and France have denounced the ‘lack of transparency’ in the campaign.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prominent figure in the Iranian revolution who served as president from 1989 to 1997, was surprisingly barred from running, as was Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a divisive figure close to the incumbent.

Considered a would-be favourite by marginalised reformists and moderates, Rafsanjani, 78, has lost much of his political stock in recent years and fallen out with Khamenei.
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