Iran Prez Ahmadinejad could face 74 lashes

After accompanying his former chief of staff to register for June’s presidential vote, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face punishment if charged with breaking electoralrules.

In an off-guard moment, the Iranian president was caught apparently muttering to his aid and confidant that if questions were raised as to why he had accompanied him to the electoral registry, “tell them I’m on a day off work.”

In the dock: Iranian presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie (L) with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran. Pic/AFP

Iranian electoral law bans individuals from supporting candidates in an official capacity, while the use of state resources on behalf of or against any candidate is also banned.

The Guardian Council complained about the president’s conduct on Sunday. Iran’s constitutional watchdog has said it might seek charges against Ahmadinejad.

The Council’s members said that public fund rules were broken when Ahmadinejad accompanied Mashaei to the election registration office.

The Guardian Council is charged with vetting all 680 hopeful presidential candidates, including Mashaei.

Ahmadinejad, who is constitutionally forbidden from running for a third term, has pushed hard for Mashaei to succeed him when the country heads to the polls on June 14 in a campaign his opponents claim has been funded with public money. The men have a close political bond, cemented by the marriage of their children.

However, Ahmadinejad’s long-standing feud with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the ruling clerics is working against the presidential hopeful and undoubtedly played a role in Sunday’s complaint against him.

Mashaei, who announced his intention to run for the presidency on 11 May, has been accused of the Ayatollah’s allies of seeking to undermine Islamic rule and criticised for his “deviant” tendencies.

The cards for the June 14 elections have so far been stacked heavily in favour of candidates allied with the Ayatollah. An Iranian government spokesman has dismissed the media reports claiming that the president could face 74 lashes, the official IRNA news agency said yesterday.

Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said the president did not break election rules as he attended the registration of candidates as an individual and not as the country’s leader.

Elham also claimed that according to the law, the election campaign in Iran only officially starts after candidates are approved by the Guardian Council.

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