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Iran’s Guardian Council on Sunday approved six candidates to run in the country’s presidential election later this month, weeks after President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others died in a helicopter crash, Radio Free Europe reported.

The candidates will include the conservative parliament speaker, Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, reformist lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian and Saeed Jalili, a former negotiator for Iran’s nuclear program.

The council – a panel made up of jurists and clerics under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – barred former firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who carried out brutal crackdowns following his disputed re-election in 2009, from standing.

It also blocked female candidates or anyone calling for radical change in the Islamic Republic, the Associated Press noted.

Candidates will have two weeks of campaigning to sway voters, although none of them have offered any unique proposals, the newswire wrote. All of them have promised better economic prospects as the country buckles under Western sanctions over its nuclear program.

At the same time, the government ordered strict guidelines for media coverage during the election campaign, including banning content that would discourage voters or inspire them to boycott the polls.

Analysts suggested that Qalibaf, a former military commander, appears to be the front-runner and has reportedly received support from Khamenei. Many Iranians remember Qalibaf for his involvement in a 1999 crackdown on Iranian university students and for ordering security forces to fire live ammunition at students in 2003.

The elections come amid rising tensions between Iran and the West due to Iran’s support for Russia in the Ukraine war and its backing of militia proxy forces across the Middle East. This spotlight has intensified as Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen attack ships in the Red Sea amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

President Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others died in a helicopter crash on May 19 in northwestern Iran. Ongoing investigations have not yet found any evidence of foul play.

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