Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a charismatic former Iranian President, registered at the last moment on Saturday as a candidate in the presidential election next month. The decision by the 78-year-old de facto leader of the opposition galvanizes a contest that had previously seemed to favour a conservative pro-clergy candidate, Ali Akbar Velayati.
Saturday was the final day for nominations for the June 14 poll to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mr. Rafsanjani, a mullah who was one of the architects of the Islamic republic, later shifted to criticism of the conservative clerical leadership. Former Foreign Minister Velayati, the conservative favourite, registered just hours earlier. He is an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneii, who is more powerful than the President.
Another last-minute entrant was the mayor of Tehran, Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf. A former commander of the police, he is also a member of the conservative camp and is seeking an alliance with Mr. Velayati.
Mr. Velayati has attacked Mr. Ahmadinejad’s nuclear policies which have put Iran at loggerheads with the West and said the dispute ought to be resolved. An Ahmadinejad associate, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, is also expected to enter the race. Senior clergy regard him as a nationalist who may undermine the paramount role allotted to their Islamic values.