Hassan Rouhani — Khamenei Rifts Increase: Khamenei Wants Only Conservative Candidates To Run For Elections

Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, seems to have developed a rift with the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in the build up towards the upcoming dual elections on February 26. The matter in question is about the selection of candidates.

A disproportionate number of Reformist candidates have been disqualified from running the elections. Almost 12,000 candidates have registered for the February 26 elections in the Islamic Republic, where the 290-seat parliament and 88-member assembly have long been dominated by conservatives close to Khamenei. In a vetting process carried out by the the Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated panel, only 30 of the 3,000 registered Reformist candidates – one percent — passed the second round of qualifications review. Khamenei vocally supported the process.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei delivers a speech prior to the Irans Parliamentary elections, in Tehran, Iran on January 20, 2016. [Photo by Pool / Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei delivers a speech prior to Iran’s parliamentary elections, in Tehran, Iran, on January 20, 2016.
[Photo by Pool/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images][/caption]

In an earlier statement Khamenei had endorsed free and fair participation in the elections, even from those who had problems with the regime. However, changing his stance, he made a new statement on Wednesday, saying as follows.

“What I said does not mean that those who don’t believe in the regime should be sent to the Parliament.”

The BBC reports that many were disqualified because they were not considered sufficiently loyal to the ruling system by the committee, which is made up of six judges elected by the conservative-dominated parliament and six clerics appointed by the Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei.

[Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images]

Rouhani and many U.S. policymakers have been hoping that the Reformist candidates would make substantial gains in Parliament. The disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates could dash hopes that Rouhani’s allies would dominate the next parliament.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said the following.

“Hardliners in Iran, led by supreme leader Khamenei, are obviously terrified of the political preferences of the Iranian people.”

Reformists have been largely sidelined since the authorities launched a crackdown on the opposition Green Movement, a political movement that arose after the 2009 Iranian presidential election, in which protesters demanded the removal of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and annulment of what they regarded as a fraudulent election. Dejected and disappointed, few Reformists contested the parliamentary polls in 2012. But their hopes were raised by the the election the following year of Rouhani and his success in negotiating a landmark nuclear deal to get international sanctions lifted this month.

Khamenei grudgingly allowed Rouhani to negotiate the nuclear deal on a pledge of easing Iran’s isolation abroad and repression at home. Iran’s success in winning an end to international sanctions in exchange for curbing its disputed nuclear program is expected to intensify a power struggle within an elite split into conservative and moderate-reformist factions.

The barring of moderates and reformists is seen as a tactic by hard-liners worried that Rouhani’s success in lifting sanctions would boost the moderates’ chances at the polls. Rouhani told the following to reporters at a news conference on Monday.

“The primary reports I’ve received did not make me happy at all. I will use all my power to protect the rights of candidates.”

Rouhani has vowed to use all his constitutional powers to reinstate those barred, but it’s not clear how he will be able to influence the process. He said Thursday that he assigned Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to consult with the Guardian Council over the case, because “talks and consultations are the best way” to settle the dispute. The council is now studying complaints from those barred, as reported by the Asian Age.

Speaking in Tehran to an audience of provincial governors, he implied that only conservatives should not contest the election for seats in parliament. He said the following.

“It is called the House of the Nation, not the house of one faction. If there is one faction and the other is not there, they don’t need the February 26 elections, they go to the parliament. No official without the vote of the people would be legitimate. Executors and observers should pay attention that the law is respected.”

Only time will tell how the event develop in Iran’s political scene, but they definitely will be closely observed by the nations around the world.

[Photo by Pool/Presidency of Iran/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]