Iran’s electoral watchdog has barred moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from standing in a June 14 presidential election, the interior ministry said on Tuesday. Eight candidates won approval to stand — five conservatives close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as two moderate conservatives and a reformist, according to AFP. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a close but controversial aide to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was also omitted from the list, AFP reported. No explanation was given for the disqualifications. Earlier today, Iranian news websites boosted speculation Tuesday that election overseers have barred two prominent but divisive figures from next month’s presidential ballot, in a move that would eliminate a threat to the country’s hard-liners, AP said.
The Tasnimnews.com website said the Guardian Council, which vets candidates, has rejected former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close confidant of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The semiofficial Mehr news agency carried the same report.
Mehr said only eight hopefuls, most of them hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been approved. The reports are not official. The announcement on the list for the June 14 election is expected later Tuesday or Wednesday.
Rafsanjani’s unexpected entry into the presidential race had re-energized reformist groups that have been under relentless pressure and crackdowns since major protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009. His candidacy scrambled the vote’s equation because of his popularity, reputation and potential to draw voters away from conservatives, said AP.
If he is indeed barred from the race, it would deal a demoralizing blow to pro-reform groups and dim hopes for a high turnout. It also would boost the chances of a Khamenei loyalist winning the election, reported AP.