One of Iran’s most senior clerics has declared that this year’s presidential election should be scrapped, with a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad handpicked by MPs rather than the people. With debate raging in Tehran over whether elections are free and fair, Grand Ayatollah Jabar Sobhani said June’s vote should be ditched to preserve national unity. The comments, by one of Iran’s highest religious authorities, suggest the regime is still nervous about retaining control of the election campaign and the result. The government was embarrassed by the nationwide protests that marred the 2009 poll, prompting a savage crackdown. “Although the president should be chosen by the people, it would be better if MPs chose him under the current circumstances . . . We must keep the unity of the word and national unity,” Ayatollah Sobhani said.
The cleric’s remarks echo threats over recent months by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to abolish the post of elected president in favour of a puppet role chosen by MPs.
Ayotollah Khamenei’s faction is determined to secure victory for the candidate of their choice and to prevent Mr Ahmadinejad from meddling in the campaign after a bitter power struggle between the men over the past two years.
Iran is also anxious to avoid a repeat of events in 2009, when Ayatollah Khamenei’s public endorsement of Mr Ahmadinejad was not enough to secure a decisive victory at the ballot box.