Iran’s Supreme Rulers have disqualified two key candidates, ratcheting up the tension ahead of 14 June presidential elections. Meanwhile, the economy is ailing with even stalwart China cutting oil purchases (see p17). Tehran hopes upcoming presidential elections will not be a repeat of the 2009 polls, which produced rioting resulting in a number of fatalities. From this perspective, the 21 May decision by the Guardian Council – the body charged with vetting candidates – to disqualify both former president Hashemi Rafsanjani (a relative liberal) and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nominee, might be seen as a sensible precautionary measure by Iran’s parallel (and unelected) clerical establishment.

Mr Rafsanjani was ostensibly ruled out on the grounds of his age (78), although the real reason is believed to have been his somewhat ambiguous backing for the reformist Green Movement in 2009. Mr Ahmadinejad, who says he will appeal the Council’s decision, has of late been publicly at odds with Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (CONTINUED - 711 WORDS)