AFP: Iran’s moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been barred from standing in next month’s presidential election, along with a controversial aide of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
By Mohammad Davari
TEHRAN (AFP)— Iran’s moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been barred from standing in next month’s presidential election, along with a controversial aide of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
Rafsanjani, who served as president from 1989 to 1997, was omitted from the list of eight candidates approved by the Guardians Council, a conservative-dominated vetting body, along with Ahmadinejad confidant and ex-chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie.
The approved list of candidates for the June 14 election is dominated by conservatives close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate decision-maker in the Islamic republic.
No explanation was given for the disqualifications.
Rafsanjani’s late registration on May 11 had polarised Iran’s complex political system, with marginalised reformists backing him while ultra-conservatives questioned his motives for a political comeback.
A heavyweight until eight years ago when Ahmadinejad beat him in the 2005 presidential election, Rafsanjani has lost much of his political stock in recent years.
In particular, he drew the ire of the ruling establishment in 2009 when he openly questioned the handling of the controversial election which gave Ahmadinejad a second term.
That vote provoked massive street protests and claims of fraud, which were crushed in a heavy-handed crackdown.
Rafsanjani, who will turn 79 in August, currently chairs the Expediency Council, Iran’s highest political arbitration body.
Guardians Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai, speaking to state television and without naming Rafsanjani, said frailty and old age had been factors in the eliminations.
Mashaie, the other main candidate disqualified, was personally endorsed by Ahmadinejad.
His exclusion was not unexpected however, as he is seen as too liberal, considered a danger to the Islamic revolution by regime insiders, and is accused of driving a wedge between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei in recent years.
Mashaie said he would seek to reverse his disqualification.
“I deem my disqualification an injustice. I will seek its resolution through” Khamenei, he told the Fars news agency. “God willing, it will be resolved.”
The disqualifications appeared to put lead nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, a figure close to Khameni, in the front seat.
He is rivalled in his quest for Iran’s highest elected office by fellow conservative hopefuls cleared by the Guardians Council, comprised of religious conservatives who are all directly or indirectly appointed by Khamenei.
They include Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, ex-foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, ex-commander of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezai and former parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel.
Two figures seen as moderate conservatives are also on the list of approved candidates: former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, and Mohammad Gharazi, a former minister who served under Rafsanjani and under opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is currently under house arrest.
The reformists will have only one candidate in the election in Mohammad Reza Aref, who served as first vice president under president Mohammad Khatami.
The Guardians Council is tasked with vetting candidates to ensure they meet the constitutional requirement of being faithful to the principles of the Islamic republic.
Some 686 hopefuls, including 30 women, most of them politically unknown, had registered to contest the election.
Ahmadinejad is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term. His two-term presidency has left the Islamic republic isolated internationally and struggling to cope with harsh economic sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.