One of Iran's most reform-minded presidential candidates has been barred from standing in next month's presidential ballot by the conservative Guardian Council leaving just eight men on the ballot paper, all of whom are considered hardliners.
The country's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was expected to win votes from the centre ground and among Iran's moderates, was blocked along 678 other candidates who had initially put their names forward. Among the others to be told that they cannot stand is Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei - an ally of the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is barred from taking part in the 14 June ballot having already served two consecutive terms.
That leaves just a handful of approved candidates who have been sanctioned by the 12-member council - a body whose loyalty rests with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah. Mr Mashaei, who has been groomed by Mr Ahmadinejad for the presidency has in the past been derided as a “deviant current” among Iran's conservative religious elite.
The list of those eligible to stand will come as a disappointment to those hoping that the election would herald liberal reforms. The eight candidates are all hardline conservatives who are almost to uphold Iran's Islamist doctrines.
Mr Rafsanjani, who is 78 and who served as president between 1989 and 1997 was, according to the Guardian Council, rejected on the basis of his age. Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai said he would be unlikely to cope with the role.
“An individual, who seeks to hold a senior administrative post but is only capable of doing work for several hours during the day, cannot be approved,” he told al-Alam TV.