Iran has accused the US and France of “interference” for criticising it for barring hundreds of would-be candidates in next month’s presidential election. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday that Tehran was “highly sensitive” about comments targeting its internal affairs, while his spokesman Abbas Araqchi said: “Elections in Iran are free and transparent. They are held based on the country’s laws and regulations.” Their comments came after the news on Tuesday that the Guardians Council, Iran’s unelected electoral watchdog, had cleared just eight male candidates out of 868 registrants to stand in the June 14 election. Two key figures – moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie – were among those disqualified.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashai
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.
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 accompanying his former chief of staff to register for June’s presidential vote, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face punishment if charged with breaking electoral rules. On Sunday, the country’s electoral watchdog attracted worldwide media attention after pointing out Ahmadinejad may face a punishment of “74 lashes” for accompanying and appearing to endorse election entrant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie. Iranian electoral law bans individuals from supporting candidates in an official capacity, while the use of state resources on behalf of or against any candidate is also banned. A conviction could bring a maximum punishment of six months in jail or 74 lashes, according to Iranian press reports. But analysts have brushed off “hyped” claims that Ahmadinejad would be penalized, and even if he were to be lashed or imprisoned, it may not be anytime soon.
In totalitarian dictatorships diversity of opinion doesn’t exist. And so is the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran where all secular organizations and parties were eliminated at the beginning of the Islamic revolution of 1979. Nevertheless, in keeping up appearances, presidential elections are to be held in that country on June 14th. There is an ‘inter-Islamist’ discussion about which Islamist candidate could serve the ruling leader Ali Khamenei in the best way. And that’s the gist of it; the candidates will not deviate from the ruling Islamic doctrine.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, a close aide and advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has announced that the government will not allow anything to compromise the health and transparency of the presidential election. In an interview with the state news agency IRNA on Sunday March 24, Mashai said the president has announced that he will be ready to confront even the slightest shadow of doubt about the running of the elections. Iran’s presidential election is set for June 2013. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not eligible to run, having already served two consecutive terms, but he is reportedly intent on promoting his close advisor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, to run in the race.