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.