Hassan Rouhani
Hassan RouhaniReuters

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has decided to run for re-election in May, the vice-president for parliamentary affairs said on Sunday.

"In recent weeks, Mr. Rouhani has reached a conclusion to take part in the presidential elections," Hosseinali Amiri told reporters, according to AFP.

Rouhani had been widely expected to run for a second term but has yet to formally announce he will stand in the May 19 election.

He remains popular for stabilizing the Iranian economy and ending sanctions through a nuclear deal with world powers, although many feel the economic benefits have not trickled down and he has failed in his efforts to release political dissidents from jail.

Despite being touted by the West as a “moderate”, Rouhani, like his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has spoken out against Israel, calling it “illegitimate” and lamenting that the crisis in Syria has made it difficult for Iran to focus on harming Israel.

Shortly after being elected in 2013, Rouhani called Israel an "old wound" that "should be removed". Iranian media later claimed that Rouhani’s remarks were distorted.

Rouhani has personally presided over “Death to America” chants during rallies in Iran, even though he claimed that Iranians “respect the American people”.

In addition, under his presidency Iran has set new records in the number of executions, many for political or religious "crimes". Rouhani has also done little in the way of freeing reformist political leaders who were jailed after protesting the 2009 election.

It is not yet clear who would challenge Rouhani in the election, as the conservative camp has so far failed to settle on an obvious candidate.

The conservatives have sought to address this problem with a new primary-style system, according to AFP. Some 3,000 loyalists gathered last week to create a short list of potential candidates with a view to eventually rallying around a single figure.

Candidates must formally announce their intention to run between April 11 and 15.

Ahmadinejad will not be a candidate, after Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered him not to run.