Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has died aged 82, local media say.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a dominant figure in Iran’s politics since the 1980s, was the country’s president from 1989 to 1997.
He suffered a heart attack.
Rafsanjani played a pivotal role in the 1979 revolution but later in life became a counterpoint to hard-line conservatives.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hailed a “companion of struggle” despite their differences, saying that the loss was “difficult and overwhelming”.
“The different opinions and interpretations at time in this long period could never entirely break up the friendship between us,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The government declared three days of national mourning.
Image source Wikimedia
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was admitted to the Shohadaa Hospital in Tehran on January 8, where doctors tried unsuccessfully for an hour to save him, media said.
A TV broadcaster broke into programs to bring the news, saying the former president “after a life full of restless efforts in the path of Islam and revolution, had departed for lofty heaven”.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had warm relations with President Hassan Rouhani, who was seen at the hospital shortly before the death was announced. A crowd reportedly gathered at the hospital later to mourn.
He was born in 1934 in south-eastern Iran to a family of farmers.
He studied theology in the holy city of Qom with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – who went on to lead the Islamic revolution of 1979 – and was imprisoned several times under the Shah.
In the last year of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He was seen as the main mover behind Iran’s acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution that ended the war.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was also a key player in the development of Iran’s nuclear program.
He was a man known for a sharp wit but who could also be ruthless.
He advocated progressive economic policies, encouraging private businesses and improving infrastructure. His own business holdings were reported to be widespread.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ran for a third time for president in 2005 but lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He became openly critical of the victorious president and in 2009, he sided with reformers who disputed that year’s elections. Nevertheless, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani continued to champion moderate causes, such as the release of political prisoners and greater political freedoms for parties prepared to work within the constitution.
Some 50 million voters across Iran are casting their ballots in the country’s key presidential elections.
Although all six candidates are seen as conservatives, one of them, cleric Hassan Rouhani, has been reaching out to the reformists in recent days.
The election will decide a successor to outgoing leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s eight years in power have been characterized by economic turmoil and Western sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.
Polls across Iran opened at 08:00 local time and are due to close at 18:00. Some 50 million people are eligible to cast their ballots.
The past week brought a surprising change to what otherwise had looked like being a predictable election.
Hassan Rouhani has been attracting increasing attention, speaking publicly about the need to re-engage with the West, our correspondent says.
He has also promised to free political prisoners and called for greater reform of the media.
The surge of support for him came after Mohammad Reza Aref, the only reformist candidate in the race, announced on Tuesday that he was withdrawing his candidature on the advice of pro-reform ex-President Mohammad Khatami.
Hassan Rouhani now has the endorsement of two ex-presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was disqualified from the race by the powerful Guardian Council.
However, Hassan Rouhani faces a tough challenge from hard-line candidates, including top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
Six candidates are running for Iran’s presidential race
The remaining candidates are conservatives close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
He has called for a large turnout but not publicly stated his preference for any single candidate.
After casting his vote early, Ayatollah Khamenei spoke live on state television.
“Inshallah [God willing], the Iranian people will create a new political epic,” he said.
He also attacked US criticism of the presidential poll and those, in the US, who said they did not recognize the election.
“The Iranian people… will do what is in their interest.”
If no candidate secures 50.1 percent or more of the votes to win outright, a second round will be held in a week’s time.
Friday’s election is the first since 2009, when protesters took to the streets in anger at the results which they said had been rigged in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But the disqualification of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in May left supporters of the post-2009 liberal movement divided about whether to bother voting in the election at all.
No foreign observers will be monitoring the poll, and there have also been concerns that media coverage in the run-up was unfair.
Many reform newspapers have been shut down, access to the internet and foreign broadcasters restricted, and journalists detained.
Iranian presidential elections:
Six candidates running
Race is seen as contest between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei loyalists and moderate reformers
About 50 million eligible voters
If no candidate wins 50.1%, run-off held on June 21
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.