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Reform candidate roils Iranian presidential race

TEHRAN — Reformist presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani appears to be reigniting an opposition energy that had been largely tamped down after years of crackdowns. That is jolting authorities who once felt they were in full control of the election set for Friday.

Rowhani has talked about easing the political restrictions imposed by Iranian authorities. He tells crowds that rebuilding ties with Western governments is better than denouncing them as irreconcilable enemies.

Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, was among the eight candidates left last month after election overseers trimmed the list of presidential hopefuls. Among those cut was Rowhani’s mentor and candidate-of-choice for many moderates, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

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Iran’s ruling clerics left a candidate list largely stacked with loyalists favored by both the theocracy and its powerful protectors, the Revolutionary Guard. Rowhani — the only cleric in the race — is still a long shot to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose disputed reelection in 2009 unleashed the worst domestic unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But a series of strategy meetings held by reform-minded leaders and the possibility of converging behind Rowhani suggests their camp has not given up hope.

Associated Press