In a pointed — and ironic — challenge to Iran’s regime, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured) is calling for free and fair elections.

Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected in 2009 only amid claimed regime intervention to alter the first-round outcome, has issued a series of statements claiming that the ruling systems in the Islamic Republic have lost their legitimacy. In a letter published Sunday on a supportive website, he called on the Supreme Leader to replace President Hassan Rouhani, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and head of judiciary Sadeq Larijani:

In the current situation, keeping the heads of the three powers of the regime in their positions is facing big challenges that need to be tackled….

Is there any better way to tackle the current challenges than referring to the popular vote and holding new elections? Or perhaps they believe that they should remain in power at any cost and the people and the country should endure them until their terms are over?

During his second term from 2009 to 2013, Ahmadinejad was often at odds with the Supreme Leader and other officials, but the rift has widened in the past year. The former President was barred from running in the 2017 election. His former Vice President, Hamid Baghaei, was given a 63-year sentence in December on charges of corruption. A second ally, former spokesman Ali Akbar Javanfekr, was handed a six-month term.

Ahmadinejad’s supporters have tried to maintain his profile through websites such as Dolat-i Bahar (The Government of Spring) and rallies, including last autumn when Baghaei and Javanfekr briefly took sanctuary in a mosque in southern Tehran.

Without reference to his 2009 re-election, Ahmadinejad said in his letter to the Supreme Leader that free elections should be held without any interference from the Guardian Council, the 12-member body that can disqualify any person running for President and Parliament — and did so with Ahmadinejad in early 2017. He said Ayatollah Khamenei should forbid military institutions, including the Revolutionary Guards, from interfering in the electoral process:

Former allies of Ahmadinejad repudiated his call. The hardline conservative daily Kayhan wrote, “Are those who say everybody should resign and let us to control everything again unaware of the fact that people laugh at them?”

The Supreme Leader, who has implicitly chided the former President in public statements, has not responded to the latest challenge.

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