Iran's powerful election-vetting body, the Guardian Council, has approved seven candidates for the June 18 presidential elections.
In an announcement on Tuesday, the government body tasked with supervising the vote and vetting candidates said only seven candidates out of 592 who had registered last week passed the weeklong vetting process.
Abbas Ali Kodkhodaei, a spokesperson for the Guardian Council, said the list has been sent to the Interior Ministry, which will make an official announcement. He, however, did not specify the names of the approved candidates.
On Monday, the semiofficial Fars News Agency published a leaked list of the approved candidates, which included judiciary chief Ebrahim Raeisi, former top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief Mohsen Rezaei, head of Iran's Central Bank Abdolnaser Hemmati, Deputy Parliament Speaker Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh, former Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh and former lawmaker Alireza Zakani.
The list, however, did not include the names of key reformist candidates, including Ishaq Jahangiri, the first deputy of President Hassan Rouhani.
Other heavyweight candidates, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and former IRGC commander Saeed Mohammad, have also been disqualified.
Iran will go to the polls on June 18 to elect a new government as Rouhani's reformist government completes two terms in office. A sitting president cannot run for a third time in succession, according to Iran's Constitution.
A total of 592 candidates had earlier this month registered to run in the polls, before their nominations were sent to the Guardian Council for vetting.
Speculation had been rife over the past week about the likelihood of some key reformist and conservative figures facing disqualification from the Guardian Council, which recently came out with a directive setting new criteria for presidential hopefuls.
According to the directive, any candidate must be between 40 and 75 years old, must possess a master's degree or its equivalent, must have at least four years of experience in the management of state organizations, should have served as a minister or governor of cities with a 2 million-plus population or been a top commander of the armed forces with the rank of major general or higher. Hopefuls should also not have any criminal record or jail history.
The days leading up to registration saw a public tiff between the Guardian Council and Rouhani's office over the new directive.
Pertinently, this year's election comes at a crucial time with Iran and world powers engaged in negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which the conservatives in Iran have frowned upon.
With conservatives well positioned to seize power from reformists, all eyes would be on how Rouhani's successor pursues the issue of negotiations and back-channel talks with countries in the neighborhood, including Saudi Arabia.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called for a high turnout in the upcoming elections without backing any candidate. However, with top reformists facing disqualification, observers fear the voting turnout may be affected.