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Iran’s Khamenei calls for review of candidates’ disqualification

TEHRAN

In a rare intervention, Iran’s supreme leader urged the country’s top election supervisory body to re-consider the disqualification of some candidates for the June 18 election.

In a televised speech to mark the death anniversary of Iran’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini on Friday, Ali Khamenei said the authorities must “compensate” some candidates who were disqualified last month.

Without naming the candidate(s) or the election vetting body, Iran’s leader, who generally does not interfere in the vetting process, termed disqualification and accusations against some candidates “oppression.”

In a post on his official Twitter page following the speech, Khamenei said some candidates were “wronged” during the vetting process.

“They were accused of untrue things that were unfortunately spread throughout the Internet too,” the statement said. “Protecting people’s honor is one of the most important issues. I call on the responsible bodies to restore their honor.”

While Khamenei’s comments have created a stir in Iran, speculation is rife that the disqualified candidate in question could be former parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

Larijani, a principlist (conservative supporters of the supreme leader) who has lately veered towards the reformist camp, was among the high-profile presidential candidates rejected by the Guardian Council last month.

In the run-up to the election, he had projected himself as a potential reformist candidate, even engaging in a public debate on Twitter with a senior principlist candidate and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

A rumor had been circulated that a close family member of Larijani is based in the US, which could have built a case for his disqualification during the vetting process.

It remains to be seen if Khamenei’s intervention could pave the way for Larijani’s re-entry in the race, which will give an interesting twist to the battle for June 18 vote between conservatives and reformists.

Abbas-Ali Kadkhodai, the spokesman for Guardian Council, responding to Khamenei’s remarks, said it is still unclear and the council will announce its opinion soon.

“The orders of the Supreme Leader are the final word, and his ruling must be obeyed,” he said in a tweet. “The Guardian Council will announce its opinion soon, acknowledging that it is not immune to error.”

A total of seven candidates, including five conservatives and two reformists, are presently in the fray, with conservatives having a clear edge over low-profile reformist candidates.

Pertinently, President Hassan Rouhani had last month, after the announcement of results by the Guardian Council, criticized the decision and termed it “violation of the country’s Constitution.”

He even wrote a letter to Khamenei, saying disqualifications could affect the voter turnout.

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