Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday stunned the country by unexpectedly filing to run in the May presidential election, contradicting a recommendation from the supreme leader to stay out of the race. Ahmadinejad's decision could upend an election many believed would be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal with world powers. Though Rouhani has yet to formally register, many viewed him as a shoe-in following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recommendation in September for Ahmadinejad to stand down and conservatives' inability to coalesce around a single candidate. The AP reports Khamenei has final say over all state matters, though Ahmadinejad brushed off those comments as "just advice."
AP journalists watched as stunned election officials processed Ahmadinejad's paperwork on Wednesday. Asked about Ahmadinejad's decision, one Tehran-based analyst offered a blunt assessment: "It was an organized mutiny against Iran's ruling system." Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013. Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009 sparked massive protests and a sweeping crackdown in which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed. Under Iranian law, he became eligible to run again after four years out of office, and his firebrand style could prove appealing for hard-liners seeking a tough-talking candidate who can stand up to President Trump. A clerical body will announce a final list of candidates by April 27; the election is scheduled for May 19. Read more on why the move matters here. (Read more Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stories.)