Ahmadinejad to appeal election decision

Guardian Council omitted two high-profile candidates from presidential election list

Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili. Mr Jalili is one of eight approved candidates in the upcoming election. Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili. Mr Jalili is one of eight approved candidates in the upcoming election. Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

Wed, May 22, 2013, 07:29

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to fight a decision by election overseers to disqualify his top aide from the upcoming presidential race.

He called it an act of “oppression” and he will take the case to the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

His comments came a day after the Guardian Council removed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the final candidate list. The ruling deals a serious blow to Mr Ahmadinejad’s hopes of having a loyalist succeed him. He cannot run in the June 14th ballot because of the number of times he has already held office.

The council also barred former-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a centrist who revitalised reformist hopes. It approved eight hopefuls, mostly hard-line candidates associated with the clerical establishment.

Mr Ahmadinejad had clerical conservative backing until he was perceived to challenge Mr Khamenei’s authority in 2011.

The Guardian Council, a vetting panel loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the leaders of the Islamic revolution, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a favourite of president Ahmadinejad, were both found unfit to run in the June 14th election.

State television reported that a total of eight candidates, among them Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, were eligible to run. They will be allowed to start campaigning tomorrow. The Guardian Council’s decision is bound to anger supporters of the two barred candidates. The reformist movement was largely marginalised by the leadership after the last presidential race in 2009, when millions protested the integrity of the election results.

It was widely believed that the reformist candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, had defeated Mr Ahmadinejad, but the protests were violently suppressed and opposition political leaders were jailed, put under house arrest or otherwise blocked from politics.

In that context, Mr Rafsanjani - once the consummate insider - and Mr Mashaei were seen as challengers to the establishment of hard-liners and so-called traditionalists who now wield power. But both have the right to appeal to the supreme leader, and analysts said it is still possible that he might reverse one or both of the disqualifications.

Mr Ahmadinejad has hinted in speeches over the past few weeks that he would protest the disqualification of his closest aide, Mr Mashaei, who called his disqualification “unjust” and promised to “follow it up through the supreme leader.” Government representatives were not available for comment.

The disqualification of Mr Rafsanjani came as the bigger surprise to many. A close ally of Khamenei for the past 50 years, Mr Rafsanjani has held some of the Islamic republic’s highest public posts. On May 9th, he entered his name as a potential candidate in the final minutes of a five-day registration period.

“They say a revolution eats its children,” said Mehdi (27) a teacher who asked not to be fully identified to avoid repercussions. “But in the case of Rafsanjani the revolution has eaten its father.” While Mr Rafsanjani had promised to fix the ailing economy and re-establish relations with Western and Arab states, Mr Mashaei was presented as the man to continue current government policies, though he also has argued that Islam should not be the nation’s guiding principle. Because dissatisfaction with state policies is high, both men would have been successful in attracting votes, analysts say.

Their opponents, the governing establishment of traditional Shia Muslim clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders, have made it increasingly clear that only they are fit to run the country. Almost all candidates allowed to run are linked to this loose alliance of traditionalists.

The exclusion of Mashaei was expected and effectively puts an end to the influence of Mr Ahmadinejad, who in past months has disclosed sensitive information on other officials and has threatened to reveal more state secrets. Before the announcement of the Guardian Council’s decision, hard-line clerics warned disqualified candidates not to object or protest. “Or else prepare to be washed away by the people,” the influential Friday Prayer leader Ahmad Khatami told the Mashregh news agency earlier in the day.


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