— TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that a decision by election overseers to disqualify his top aide from next month's presidential race is an act of "oppression" and that he will take the case to the country's supreme leader.
His comments were posted on his website, president.ir, the day after the Guardian Council removed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the final candidate list.
Despite Ahmadinejad's pledge to appeal, it is unlikely that the Guardian Council made its decision without the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It allowed only eight candidates, mostly ones backed by clerical hard-liners.
The ruling dealt a serious blow to Ahmadinejad's hopes of having a loyalist succeed him. He can't run in the June 14 ballot due to term limits under Iran's constitution.
"I believe the right of an oppressed man won't be trampled at this level in a country where there is Velayat-e-Faqih," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying, referring to Iran's Islamic system of government in which a top cleric serves as supreme leader and the final authority on all matters of state.
Ahmadinejad claims deference to Khamenei, although his perceived 2011 challenge to the Supreme Leader's authority caused him to fall out with conservatives who formerly backed him and marks the start of the decline in his political fortunes.
The president called Mashaei a "pious, rightful and competent man." He said he would pursue the appeal "through the exalted leader until the last moment and hope the problem will be resolved," he said.
Ahmadinejad has strongly supported his protege. But Mashaei is disliked by hard-liners because of the man's alleged role in the bitter feud between Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics. They have denounced him as part of a "deviant current" that seeks to undermine the country's Islamic system - which made ballot approval highly unlikely.