Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Reuters

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be plotting a course to a third term, with a sudden spate of public appearances fueling rumors that the hardliner may be pursuing a new presidential bid.

Ahmadinejad, whose belligerent rhetoric and open calls for Israel’s destruction isolated Iran diplomatically, nevertheless won reelection in 2009 by wide margin, receiving 63% of the vote.

Observers say that the 59-year old former leader could pose a serious threat to incumbent president Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned as a reform-oriented moderate, despite his country’s ongoing threats to annihilate Israel.

Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 and reelected in 2009, but was barred from running for a third consecutive term by the Iranian constitution. The former president is allowed, however, to run for a third and final non-consecutive term in 2017.

Roughly a year ahead of Iran’s next presidential election, Ahmadinejad appears to be laying the ground work for a political campaign.

While he largely avoided public appearances after leaving office in 2013, Ahmadinejad has attended a number of major events in recent weeks, speaking to exuberant crowds cheering “Ahmadinejad is coming back!”

Despite Iran’s economic woes under Ahmadinejad, conservative Islamic leaders generally view the former president as their best chance to retake the presidency from reformers like Rouhani. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has also sent positive signals, with one of its official news organs offering public praise of Ahmadinejad while criticizing incumbent president Rouhani.

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