BFF-47, 48 Ultra-conservatives dominate Iran presidential hopefuls

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Ultra-conservatives dominate Iran presidential hopefuls

TEHRAN, May 25, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Iran on Tuesday approved seven
hopefuls to run in next month’s presidential poll, a list dominated by
ultraconservatives and deemed “indefensible” by one senior official.

The election-vetting Guardian Council disqualified moderate
conservative Ali Larijani, in a surprise move that could clear the way
for a strong run by ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi in
the June 18 election.

The announcement comes with Iran engaged in talks with world powers
aimed at reviving a nuclear deal that has been on life support since
former US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from it in
2018.

Raisi won 38 percent of the vote in the 2017 presidential election
but was defeated by Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who is constitutionally
barred from holding office for three consecutive terms.

“I have never found the council’s decisions to be so indefensible,
whether in approvals or disqualifications,” said Ayatollah Sadegh
Amoli Larijani, a former judiciary chief, current member of the 12-man
body and brother to Ali.

The cleric took to Twitter to accuse “security bodies” of
increasingly influencing the vetting body through “false reports”.

The remarks by Amoli Larijani, also a member of the Assembly of
Experts and the head of the powerful Expediency Council, who was
replaced by Raisi at the helm of the judiciary in 2019, amount to rare
criticism from a high-ranking establishment figure.

The Guardian Council also barred firebrand former president Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, as it did when he registered to be a candidate in 2017.

Ahmadinejad has yet to comment on his disqualification.

He had said before that if not approved, he would “not participate”
in the election, either by backing a candidate or voting.

The list announced by the interior ministry sparked criticism from
reformists and even conservatives.

“I have never seen the Guardian Council criticised and blasted so
much from the far right to the far left,” said reformist journalist
Mostafa Faghihi on Twitter.

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– ‘Threat’ to competition –

The press had widely predicted a showdown between Raisi and
Larijani, who is currently an adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei.

Reformists had pinned their hopes on Eshaq Jahangiri, first-vice
president to incumbent Rouhani, but he was also barred.

Jahangiri said the disqualifications posed “a serious threat to
public participation and fair competition,” especially for reformists.

Kian Abdollahi, editor-in-chief of ultraconservative Tasnim news
agency, said the council’s decision was not “justifiable to the
public” and that “a major part” of conservatives opposed it.

A record 57 percent of Iranians stayed away from legislative
elections in February last year in which thousands of candidates, many
of them moderates and reformists, were disqualified.

Turnout is still a concern this year, with officials including the
supreme leader urging Iranians to vote.

The Guardian Council’s decision was criticised by members of the public.

The move turned the election into a mere formality, said an engineer
in Tehran who only identified himself as Majid.

“It used to be disguised, but it’s not even disguised anymore,” he told AFP.

“For me, it doesn’t really matter who’s going to be (president),
because whoever it is, nothing will change,” said fitness instructor
Farnoosh.

The government deflected reports that Rouhani had called on Khamenei
to intervene by bringing some candidates back in.

“I don’t have the latest information,” its spokesman said.

The leader had in 2005 reversed the council’s decision to bar two
reformist figures, Mostafa Moein and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, with the
latter an approved candidate this year.

– ‘God’s will’ –

The final list announcement comes as global powers meet in Vienna in
efforts to bring Washington back into a deal over Iran’s nuclear
programme, which the US left in 2018.

The withdrawal under Trump and re-imposition of US sanctions led to
Iran stepping up its nuclear activities.

Larijani, who was a key domestic backer of the 2015 deal, conceded
his disqualification on Tuesday.

“Dear nation of Iran; now that the election was decided to be so, I
have fulfilled my duty,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I am content with God’s will,” he wrote.

Many political figures and analysts said there was hardly a
competition any more, as the disqualification of Raisi’s main rivals
should allow him an easy victory.

They include ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Major General Mohsen
Rezai, ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and
ultraconservative MPs Alireza Zakani and Amirhossein
Ghazizadeh-Hashemi.

The list also includes reformist ex-vice president Mehralizadeh, and
central bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati, deemed close to the left.

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