By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — More than 1,600 candidates have filed to run in the Iranian presidential election as the official registration period ended on April 15.
Among the last-minute entrants for the May 19 election was 55-year-old Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who arrived at the Interior Ministry just before the deadline.
First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri, 60, also was a late entrant. He is a close ally of moderate cleric President Hassan Rohani, who registered on April 14.
Experts said the reformist Jahangiri could be running as a potential alternative should Rouhani be disqualified by the Guardian Council, which vets candidates before they can appear on the ballot.
“Rouhani and I are side-by-side,” Jahangiri told reporters.
The council routinely disqualifies those it regards as a threat to the clerical establishment. In 2013, it prevented ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running.
Officials said a total of 1,636 people registered for the election, including 137 women. The council has not allowed women to run in the past.
Traditionally, about six candidates are finally approved to run. The campaign officially opens April 28 and the vote is on May 19.
Ebrahim Raisi, 56, a hard-line cleric close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on April 14 filed to run and is considered by many to be the 68-year-old Rohani’s main challenger.
Raisi is expected to draw support from Iran’s hard-line factions, including the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Rohani negotiated the Iranian nuclear deal with world powers last year, but some disappointment that the accord has not spurred economic growth has boosted the opposition against him.
Former hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, 60, made a surprise move to register for the election against Khamenei’s advice.
Khamenei has said Ahmadinejad candidacy would create a “polarized situation” that would be “harmful for the county.”