Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, has thrown his name in the ring for the country's upcoming elections.
In a move that could greatly influence the electoral playing field — which is made up largely of "principlists" loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini — relatively moderate Rasanjani registered as a candidate just before Saturday's deadline.
The 78-year-old politician led Iran from 1989 to 1997, and is expected to pull support from his loyalists and reformists for backing the opposition movement that was tamped down after 2009's hotly disputed election, the country's last.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an aide to outgoing leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also registered to run at the last minute. He is expected to be a favorite among Ahmadinejad supporters.
Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, has put in registration for the landmark elections as well, which are slated for June 14.
Though over 400 candidates have registered, the supreme-leader-controlled Guardian Council makes final decisions on who can stand for elections.
"With so many wild cards now in the game, the fate of the election is now concealed in a smoke screen," US-based Iranian elections expert Yasmin Alem told Reuters.
The elections come at a crucial time for Iran, which is under international pressure and scrutiny over its nuclear arms program, including threats of attack from Israel.
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