Fearing a boycott after all reformist candidates were disqualified from Iran’s upcoming elections, the country’s supreme leader ordered the applications of some candidates be reviewed today, state-run television reported.
The Guardian Council, the hard-line constitutional watchdog which vets the election candidates, yesterday rejected all the reformists who’d registered to run in next month’s presidential elections.
Only six out of more than 1,000 hopeful candidates were approved, and those six were not from the reformist camp.
“It’s appropriate that all individuals in the country be given the choice from various political tendencies,”? said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his decree addressed to Guardian Council chief Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.
“Therefore, it seems that (the) qualification of Mr Moin and Mr Mehralizadeh be reconsidered,”? the television quoted Khamenei’s decree as saying, referring to the two most prominent reformists disqualified, Mostafa Moin and Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh.
Khamenei’s call is unlikely to appease the reformists, who have slammed the council’s vetting policies as illegal, but his intervention may revive hopes for a reasonable turnout in the June 17 election.
A higher voter turnout could help legitimise the ruling establishment in its dealings with the international community and undermine US threats to attack Iran.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, made the statement after parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a hard-liner, called on him to intervene in the growing dispute over the disqualification of Moin and Mehralizadeh in order to encourage more Iranians to vote.
Khamenei made no mention of 89 women hopefuls barred from running because of their gender.
Women are not expected to be allowed to run.
Hours earlier, Moin said he would not vote in the elections and called his disqualification “illegal, unfair and illogical”?.
“I won’t vote in the election,”? Moin, a former culture minister, told reporters today.
Saeed Shariati, leader of Moin’s party – the largest reform party – stopped short of announcing a boycott, but predicted the Islamic Iran Participation Front party wouldn’t participate: “We won’t participate in a sham election where the outcome has already been decided by hard-liners.”?
Shariati later welcomed Khamenei’s order.
“The mistake by the Guardian Council has been partly rectified by a more senior authority,”? he said.
“That’s good. But whether we will participate in the election or not has to be discussed by the party.”?
The party would meet later today he said, adding it was likely the party change its plans to boycott.
The Guardian Council, controlled by hard-liners loyal to Khamenei, justified its decision in published remarks that made clear it expects the next Iranian president to shy away from attempting the political reforms President Mohammad Khatami sought but was repeatedly blocked from implementing.
“Thoughts of the president have to be in line with the thoughts of the supreme leader,”? Jannati was quoted as saying in today’s edition of Saheb-e-Ghalam newpaper.
Ruling clerics, led by Khamenei are seeking to consolidate their power following the departure of Khatami, who is barred by law from seeking another term.
The Islamic Iran Participation Front warned in a statement that hard-liners were sacrificing Iran’s security and national interests to remain in power, and that the Guardian Council “prefers to endanger the country’s security and national interests to remain in power for a short time”?.
The presidential election comes as Iran is facing international pressure over its controversial nuclear programme, trying to convince the US and Europe that it is not seeking to develop weapons.
Moin was the only candidate who supported Iran’s continued suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities to avoid a nuclear crisis and reach a compromise with the Europeans.
Approved candidates for the June 17 presidential race include powerful former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who moves frequently between the hard-line and more moderate camps and is seen as a front-runner.
Others include former police chief Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf; former radio and television chief Ali Larijani; Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; former head of the elite Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezaei; and former parliamentary speaker Mahdi Karroubi.
Qalibaf, Rezaei, Larijani and Ahmadinejad are widely seen as Khamenei candidates because of their strong loyalty to him. All of them are former military commanders.
Karroubi has some support among reform-minded voters loyal to the clerical establishment, including hard-line clerics who have somewhat moderated their views.
However he is unpopular among young Iranians who make up the majority of Iran’s 70 million population and are more inclined toward sweeping reforms.