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Principlist body backs Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi as top choice in June presidential vote

Iran’s Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeisi

Iran’s Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi is facing mounting calls by his supporters and associated political figures to join the 2021 presidential race, with a top body of Principlists now backing him as its top choice.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the spokesperson for the Unity Council of Principlists, told Tasnim news agency on Tuesday (May 4) that the Council had endorsed Raeisi as the top pick in the election.

“We in the Unity Council have come to the conclusion that Mr. Raeisi is the fittest candidate for presidency, and we hope we will hear him announcing his candidacy in the 2021 presidential election himself,” Mottaki said.

He also dismissed media reports suggesting that former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was the Council’s choice.

The presidential election in Iran will be held on June 18.

Mottaki had last month tipped Raeisi as the Council’s “first priority,” after announcing talks with prospective Principlist candidates to understand their plans and potential cabinet compositions.

Raeisi himself has so far been tight-lipped about his plans, and there has been no indication from the current Judiciary chief that he would like to run for president. Raeisi was the main challenger to incumbent Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 presidential campaign, where he came in second.

Raeisi has been focused on his work at the country’s Judiciary, especially a crusade against corruption, which has earned him plaudits.

He was appointed the head of the country’s top judicial authority by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in March 2019.

While Raeisi remains the top bet for Principlists, other potential candidates include Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei, and former Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan.

There has been hectic activity in the Reformist camp too, with many names doing the rounds as potential candidates, including that of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif, however, has repeatedly dismissed speculation about presidential aspirations.

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