TehranAFP photo

Iran's moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and a former government official, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, have been barred from contesting the June 14 presidential election, the interior ministry said Tuesday, according to AFP.

Eight candidates won approval to stand, including five conservatives close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as two moderate conservatives and a reformist, the ministry said in a statement.

No explanation was given for the disqualifications, neither by the interior ministry nor by Iran's electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, which is officially tasked with vetting candidates.

The council is comprised of religious conservatives who are all directly or indirectly appointed by Khamenei.

Rafsanjani's late registration to run had polarized Iran's complex political system.

A heavyweight until eight years ago when incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beat him in the 2005 presidential election, Rafsanjani has fallen from the grace in the Islamic regime in recent years.

In 2009, he openly questioned the handling of the 2009 presidential election, which provoked massive street protests on claims of fraud.

Mashaie, the other disqualified candidate, is a close aide to Ahmadinejad and was personally endorsed by the president, reported AFP. However, he is seen as too liberal and a danger to the Islamic revolution.

The conservatives who are cleared to contest Iran's highest elected office are: top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, ex-foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, ex-commander of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezai and former parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel.

The moderate-conservatives approved are another former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, and Mohammad Gharazi, an ex-minister who served under Rafsanjani and under-house-arrest opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The marginalized reformists will have only one candidate - Mohammad Reza Aref.

A total of 686 candidates had signed up to run for the presidency and succeed Ahmadinejad, who cannot run for a third straight term according to Iranian law.

Rowhani recently accused Ahmadinejad of needlessly incurring crippling economic sanctions.

"I have come forward to save Iran's economy and forge a constructive interaction with the world through a government of wisdom and hope," he said, adding, "This administration made fun of sanctions, deriding them as scrap paper, while we could have avoided them or to some extent reduced" their effect.

Tehran mayor Ghalibaf has said that Ahmadinejad’s constant denial of the Holocaust was damaging to the Islamic Republic, adding that it became an “excuse for our biggest enemies, which are the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians.”

Jalili, meanwhile, has pledged to “resist” western demands regarding his country’s nuclear program if he is elected.