Following the death of Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the hardline head of the Assembly of Experts, speculation over the possible candidates to lead the government body has become the hot topic in Iranian media.

The Shargh and Etemad dailies say the chief candidates for the position are Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Mohmood Hashemi Shahroudi.

The Etemad daily says, however, that it is unlikely that the two figures would compete against each other for the spot since Hashemi Shahroudi “has a strong inclination to support Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.”

Hashemi Rafsanjani is the head of the Expediency Council and was formerly head of the Assembly of Experts but following the 2009 election protests and the strong reaction of Islamic Republic hardliners to the moderate cleric’s support for the protests, he did not nominate himself for the position in 2010 and was replaced by Mahdavi Kani.

Mahdavi Kani passed away in October at the age of 83.

Hashemi Rafsanjani has said, however, that if candidates whom he deems “unsuitable” vie for the position, he will announce his candidacy.

The assembly is charged with monitoring the actions of the Supreme Leader, but many have criticized the body, saying it has never fulfilled its duty.