As Iran prepares to head to the polls on Friday, the country’s hardline former president has called out the U.S. for meddling in the Middle East.
In a wide ranging interview with CNBC ahead of the vote, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the 2015 nuclear deal caused “more problems than it resolved” and cast doubt on the legitimacy of his country’s election.
“Any decision that prevents the people from influencing the outcome is against the spirit of the revolution and the constitution,” Iran’s former president told CNBC.
The comments came after Ahmadinejad’s candidacy was rejected by Iran’s Guardian Council, the vetting body of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The move essentially barred him from running in the 2021 election.
“I made it clear on the day that I announced my candidacy that I will not participate in the elections if the will of millions of people is denied for no legitimate reason, like it has been in the past,” Ahmadinejad said about the decision to exclude him.
A field of more than 600 candidates was narrowed to just five on Thursday. The presidential race is now seen as a contest between the moderate former central bank chief, Abdolnasser Hemmati, and the hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi.
Analysts say Raisi is the clear frontrunner, with the highest name recognition among the candidates. Raisi served four decades in Iran’s judiciary and ran but lost to moderate President Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 election.
Ahmadinejad’s two terms between 2005 and 2013 were marked by fiery exchanges, with him lashing out repeatedly against U.S. policy and Israel and pursuing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.