Rafsanjani and Mashaei barred from Iran presidency poll

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei Both Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Mashaei have been criticised by conservative clerics

Two prominent figures in Iran have been barred from standing as candidates in next month's presidential election.

Ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close ally of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had been excluded by the Guardian Council, state TV reported.

Only eight of the 686 people who registered as potential candidates were reportedly cleared to stand.

The Guardian Council is loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The eight candidates approved by the 12-member body of theologians and jurists are all considered hardline conservatives with close links to Iran's ruling clerics.

Analysis

By and large, the Guardian Council's decision kills off any sense of suspense over the result of Iran's forthcoming presidential election. We now know that the next president will be a conservative loyal to the ideas of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It would appear that Ayatollah Khamenei does not want to risk repeating the arguments he has had with the country's last two presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So, the Guardian Council has disqualified the two men who may have posed a challenge to him.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei's disqualification was widely expected. It is final confirmation that his ally, Mr Ahmadinejad, has lost his own power struggle with the ruling clerics.

The decision to disqualify Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is more dramatic - but it is not entirely surprising. Article 115 of the Iranian Constitution gives the Guardian Council wide power to disqualify any presidential candidate for almost any reason.

But the council may have to explain why a man who served as president for eight years is no longer qualified to run for his old job. This question may now be more interesting than the election itself.

They include the country's main nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Also approved were Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, former speaker of parliament Gholamali Haddad-Adel, former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, former telecommunications minister Mohammad Gharazi, and Mohammad Reza Aref, a former vice-president and technology minister seen as the only reformist.

'Loyal conservatives'

Mr Rafsanjani, who was president between 1989 and 1997, had been seen as a candidate who could win the support of pro-reform and centrist politicians, whose two leaders from the last election are under arrest.

No explanation was given for his disqualification, but Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai had suggested it would disqualify the 78 year old because he would be unlikely to cope with the demands of the presidency.

"An individual, who seeks to hold a senior administrative post but is only capable of doing work for several hours during the day, cannot be approved [to stand in the election]," he told al-Alam TV on Sunday.

Mr Mashaei is seen as the protege of President Ahmadinejad, who cannot seek re-election on 14 June because he has served two consecutive terms in office.

Approved presidential candidates

  • Saeed Jalili
  • Gholamali Haddad-Adel
  • Mohsen Rezai
  • Hassan Rowhani
  • Mohammad Reza Aref
  • Mohammad Gharazi
  • Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf
  • Ali Akbar Velayati

Known for his controversial religious views, Mr Mashaei has been denounced by hardline clerics as part of a "deviant current" that seeks to undermine Iran's Islamic system.

Mr Mashaei called the decision to bar him from standing for the presidency unfair and said he would appeal to the Supreme Leader.

"God willing this will be resolved," he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Mr Rafsanjani did not comment, but his supporters denounced the decision to exclude him on social media, according to the Associated Press.

The Guardian Council's spokesman said on Tuesday evening that there was "no provision in the election law for candidates to appeal".

BBC Iran correspondent James Reynolds says it is now clear that Ayatollah Khamenei did not want either man to disrupt an election he wants to reserve for loyal conservatives.

Iranian election: Key dates

  • Late May: Election debates on TV (not broadcast live)
  • 13 June: No election reporting allowed
  • 14 June: Polling day
  • 15 June: Result expected in early hours
  • 21 June: Possible second round
  • August: President inaugurated

Millions of Iranians took to the streets to demand a re-run after the last presidential election in June 2009, when the Supreme Leader dismissed claims of widespread fraud by the three defeated candidates.

Two of them, former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Mousavi and the senior cleric, Mehdi Karroubi, became leaders of a nationwide opposition known as the Green Movement, after its signature colour.

They were placed under house arrested in February 2011 when they applied to stage a protest in support of the anti-government uprisings which were sweeping the Arab world. They are still being detained.

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