Iran’s Guardian Council to list approved presidential candidates

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Iran’s June 14 presidential election steps up a gear on Tuesday when the Guardian Council presents a final list of approved presidential candidates to the Interior Ministry, which then has two days to publicize the names.

The constitution stipulates that presidential candidates must be political or religious figures, be of Iranian origin and hold citizenship, have a firm belief in Islam, and have a good reputation based on trustworthiness and piety.

Many of the 686 men and women who registered to stand are expected to be disqualified by the Council, which traditionally vets registered hopefuls.

The Council is made up of 12 members: six jurists chosen by parliament, and six clerics chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Among the well-known figures who have registered are the moderate former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a close ally of current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both have been targeted by ultra-conservatives calling for their disqualification.

Rafsanjani was the subject of an attempt by parliamentarians last week to ban him from running. In a letter to the Council, legislators criticized Rafsanjani for having aligned with opposition forces after the 2009 disputed elections.

Mashaie has been accused by conservatives of being part of a “deviant current” that seeks to sideline Iran’s clerical elite.

Among the potential conservative candidates, three names stand out; former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Iran is set to pay special attention to its foreign policy with the advent of its new president, according to Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, chair of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies’ Center for Iranian Studies, and author of “Iran in world politics: The question of the Islamic Republic.”

It is “no coincidence” that some candidates who registered to run, but have not yet been approved, “come directly from Iran’s foreign policy establishment,” including Jalili and Veylati, said Adib-Moghaddam.

“There is an understanding in Iran that the Ahmadinejad presidency seriously deteriorated Iran’s international relations.

“I deem it highly likely that the new president in Iran will reconstruct Iran’s regional relations with a particular focus” on the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

Khamenei last week urged people to vote for a “pious revolutionary,” the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.

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.”

These slogans are yet to be unveiled. The campaigning process will begin Tuesday with the publication of the Council’s vetted list of candidates.

Despite the buzz surrounding the election, which is held every four years, there is pessimism over whether the people’s voice will be heard.

“Iranians are less enthusiastic, but I deem it likely that the voter turnout will be relatively high,” Adib-Moghaddam told Al Arabiya English.

“There is too much at stake, and Iranians have become accustomed to exercising the democratic right to vote.”

On the ground in Tehran, however, there are mixed feelings.

“I suggest we boycott the elections,” Parisa, a journalist for a reformist newspaper, told The Guardian.

“They will do what they want, no matter what we say. Even if we do participate, they will pull out a majority vote for who they want from the ballot boxes, and get on with their plans.”

Mohsen, a 22-year-old architecture student, disagrees, telling Al Arabiya English: “We have the right to vote, so we should use it. Why waste a vote? Yes, some people are scared or negative, but I will vote anyway. I have not yet decided who to back.”

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