Iran MPs urge ban on presidential runs by Rafsanjani, Mashaie

DUBAI Wed May 15, 2013 10:22am EDT

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gives the opening speech during Iran's Assembly of Experts' biannual meeting in Tehran March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gives the opening speech during Iran's Assembly of Experts' biannual meeting in Tehran March 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Raheb Homavandi

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Some 100 legislators are demanding a ban on two top independent candidates including ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from Iran's June presidential election in what may be a further move to thwart any brewing challenge to the clerical supreme leader.

The petition by parliamentarians to Iran's Guardian Council emerged three days after the electoral watchdog said outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face charges for accompanying former aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, the other high-profile independent, to register on Saturday for the vote.

That warning raised speculation that the council would bar Mashaie. The parliamentarians - conservative hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - appeared to follow up by urging the watchdog to disqualify both independents.

After mass protests that followed the 2009 election, Khamenei may have counted on the June 14 vote to install a loyal conservative as president but the surprise candidacies of Rafsanjani and Mashaie scrambled that outlook.

In entering the fray, Rafsanjani - Iran's most prominent political grandee and a relative moderate - and Mashaie, former chief of staff to Ahmadinejad, have broadened what many thought would be a contest between rival pro-Khamenei "principlists".

Principlists dominate parliament and they lost little time in condemning Rafsanjani and Mashaie's electoral quest as the Guardian Council carries out its task of vetting all candidates.

In a letter to the Council, the legislators criticized Rafsanjani for having aligned with opposition forces, who hardliners refer to as "seditionists," after Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election over reformist challengers triggered months of popular unrest eventually suppressed by force.

"This all shows that he cannot be entrusted with a great responsibility like the presidency," the letter said, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.

"BLOCK DEVIANTS, SEDITIONISTS"

The petition further denounced Mashaie, who is seen by conservatives in Iran's political establishment to be leading a "deviant current" that promotes an unorthodox version of Islam and seeks to sideline clerical authority.

"The same ones who tried to replace Islamism with nationalism have ... gathered the corrupt and the liberals around them," the letter read. "The Guardian Council, as in the past, can block the way for deviants and seditionists."

The presidential field is otherwise top-heavy with conservatives loyal to Khamenei including Saeed Jalili, chief negotiator in talks with world powers on Iran's disputed nuclear program, and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati.

The Guardian Council is due to issue a final list of approved candidates around May 23.

The council is a body of Islamic jurists and clerics seen to be generally within Khamenei's orbit but has said it is not susceptible to political pressure and would perform its vetting duties in accordance with the law.

Ahmadinejad, barred by Iran's constitution from running for a third consecutive term, was once the favorite of Khamenei's faithful but after repeatedly challenging the supreme leader's authority since 2009, he has fallen from political grace.

Authorities are mindful of pre-empting another eruption of protests like those that followed the 2009 vote, and critics say the government has sought to stifle journalists and activists ahead of the election.

On Wednesday Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said his ministry was ready to counter any plans to disrupt the elections.

"They have designs for these elections, but they will all be foiled," he said, according to Fars news agency. "Most of these plans are in the areas of media."

In a speech on Wednesday, Khamenei, Iran's most powerful man, said the people of Iran should vote for a "pious, revolutionary" candidate in order to ensure the failure of Iran's "enemy," the ISNA news agency reported.

But he also warned candidates not to promise too much in their campaigns. "In order to attract votes, sometimes candidates introduce slogans outside of the discretion of the president and the possibilities of the country," he said.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (4)
IslamBlows wrote:
Let the Blood Games Begin!
Does the winner get to eat the organs of the loser?
Apparently, Allah approves.

May 15, 2013 10:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheMonk wrote:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has taken a page from Hitler’s playbook. He must control the election so only certain candidates are elected to insure the failure of Iran’s “ENEMIES”. He is blind to the fact that it is his actions create those enemies. There is a place for Iran at the table of civilized nations if they change from a Theocracy to a Democracy.

May 15, 2013 10:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Logical123 wrote:
IslamBlows: Nobody is a cannibal in Iran. However, recently, a “rebel” in Syria supported by stupid U.S. and its allies cut up the heart of a Syrian soldier and ate it.

TheMonk: Iran’s presidential elections are much more fair and democratic than American presidential elections. Khamenei does not interfere in the process.

On the other hand, do you want every uneducated moron and deranged imbecile to run? In the U.S., all you need is money. In Iran, you have to have education, experience and leadership qualities to run. The people decide and enough people run so that there is a variety of choices. In the last American election, we had Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

May 15, 2013 12:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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