Iran Khamenei backs presidential vote of hard line vs hard line
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday approved the rejection of heavyweight moderate and conservative candidates in Iran’s June presidential election, in which two main extremists who are fiercely loyal to him will stand one against each other.
The Council of Guardians, a tight control body that approves candidates, has qualified only seven of 590 candidates for the June 18 elections, including extremist justice chief Ebrahim Raisi and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
“The honorable Guardian Council, in accordance with its duty, did what it had to do and what it deemed necessary to do and identified the candidates,” Khamenei said, according to state television.
With the removal of leading moderate and conservative figures, voters will only be left with a choice between extremists and little-known conservatives in the election, in which many Iranians have already said they will vote not in the midst of growing anger over economic hardship and restrictions on personal freedoms.
Several Iranian clerics and politicians, including the grandson of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, criticized the disqualifications on social media.
But Khamenei’s comments seemed to dash any hope of the candidates’ reinstatement. In the 2005 presidential election, he ordered the Guardian Council to reinstate two candidates.
Among those excluded from running for the next month were Ali Larijani, a prominent moderate conservative who is a former speaker of parliament and chief nuclear negotiator, and reformist first vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, an ally of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.
The other candidates allowed to vote on June 18 are Mohsen Rezaee, former Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guards; Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, an uncompromising lawmaker; Abdolnasser Hemmati, the pragmatist head of the Iranian Central Bank; Mohsen Mehralizadeh, former provincial governor; and Alireza Zakani, an uncompromising former lawmaker.
While the election will have little impact on Iran’s foreign or nuclear policy, in which Khamenei already has the final say, a radical president could strengthen the hand of the supreme clerical leader at home.
Khamenei controls the judiciary, security forces, public broadcasters and foundations that own much of the economy.
LOW REIMBURSEMENT LOOMS
If Raisi wins the election, it could increase the chances of the middle-ranking Shiite cleric to succeed Khamenei, who himself served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader when Khomeini died in 1989.
Rights groups have criticized Raisi, who lost to Rouhani in the 2017 election, for his role as judge in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
Another prominent radical candidate is Jalili, who lost his right leg in the 1980s fighting for the elite Revolutionary Guard in the Iran-Iraq war.
A former deputy foreign minister, Jalili was appointed by Khamenei in 2013 to the Council of Opportunity, responsible for resolving conflicts between Parliament and the Council of Guardians.
The tight electoral race may further weaken the clerical establishment’s hopes of a high turnout. Official opinion polls, including one carried out in May by Iranian state television, suggest that the voter turnout could be as low as 30%, much lower than in previous elections.
Some prominent pro-reform politicians in Iran and activists abroad have called for an election boycott, and the hashtag #NoToIslamicRepublic has been widely tweeted by Iranians inside and outside the country in recent weeks.
Khamenei called on the Iranians to vote in the elections.
“Dear Iranian nation, ignore those who promote (the idea) that voting is unnecessary … The election result lasts for years … Take part in the elections.”
The elections come at a time when Iran and six powers are embroiled in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump broke three years ago and reimposed sanctions that crippled the Iranian economy.
Raisi backed the negotiations, saying his government’s priority would be lifting US sanctions.
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