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Iran: presidential candidates register amid regime crackdown

Authorities on alert as campaigning kicks off in Iran.

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Iranian Interior Ministry staff chat in front of a slogan which reads in Farsi, 'Political and Economic Epoch' as they wait for the candidates to register their candidacy for the upcoming presidential election in Tehran on May 7, 2013. Iran began a five-day registration period for candidates in Iran's June 14 presidential election, with a string of conservative hopefuls in the running but with key reformists yet to come forward, media reports said. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

With Iran's presidential election just weeks away, the country's Islamic authorities are tightening their grip on the opposition, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The preemptive government crackdown is likely a warning move. Authorities do not want to see a revival of the mass anti-government protests that shook the nation after the 2009 presidential election.

Speaking of which, an article recently published on the leading opposition website Baztab Emrooz claimed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a recording "in which a senior regime official announces to him, the day after the 22 June 2009 election, that the results were rigged so as to increase the number of votes for him from 16 to 24 million," according to RSF

On April 29, the day after the article was published, Emrooz was shut down and its editor, Ali Ghazali, has been imprisoned for the past three days, said RSF.

That doesn't mean the information won't get around, but the authorities are making efforts in that regard even harder than usual. Because the internet is heavily monitored in Iran, many rely on proxy servers and similar tools to help circumvent the government's watchful eye. RSF said two main platforms for doing so, Kerio and OpenVPN, have been completely unavailable since Saturday. 

Meanwhile, registration opened Tuesday for the country's June 14 presidential election, according to the Associated Press

After a five-day registration window, BBC News said the candidates will be vetted by the Guardian's Council, an elite and powerful arm of the Islamic government. 

The 12-member council will probably oust candidates like Mostafa Kavakebian, who registered Tuesday. They disqualified the reformist parliamentarian back in 2009 -- along with 471 other hopefuls, said BBC, leaving only four men to run.  

Former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani may make the cut, however. He also registered Tuesday and is expected to be a top candidate, said AP

Also reportedly on the radar: Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, and the outspoken Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, loyal to Ahmadinejad -- whose leadership has been under attack by hardliners as well as the opposition. 

The council will release its final list of candidates later this month, said BBC

The 2009 election riots were the largest seen in Iran since the 1979 revolt that swept the Islamic authorities to power.

RSF said journalists Said Madani, Siamak Ghadery and Abolfazal Abedini Nasar were placed in solitary confinement on April 21 in the country's infamous Evin prison. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/130507/iran-presidential-candidates-start-registering-amid-re