Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)
DUBAI - Iran's electoral watchdog said on Monday it would bar
physically feeble candidates from running for president, in an apparent hint
that it could disqualify 78-year-old former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
from the race.
Rafsanjani, if he is allowed to run, would be a
significant challenge to conservative hardliners who are ultra-loyal to Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and who otherwise dominate the field for the June
14 presidential election.
The wily, pragmatic cleric, who has often been
close to the heart of power since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, shook up the
election contest earlier this month when he joined the race.
Guardian Council, a conservative body of clerics and jurists that vets all
candidates, may disqualify him, along with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a close ally
of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also registered to run at the last
"If an individual who wants to take up a high post can only
perform a few hours of work each day, naturally that person cannot be
confirmed," Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai said on Monday,
according to the ISNA news agency.
Kadkhodai did not name Rafsanjani. The
council is due to present a final list of approved candidates on Tuesday to the
Interior Ministry, which then has two days to announce it.
legislators demanded last week that Rafsanjani and Mashaie be banned from
Rafsanjani earned hardliners' ire for criticizing the crackdown
on opposition protests after Ahmadinejad was re-elected in 2009 in a vote that
reformists said was rigged.
Conservatives are suspicious of Mashaie,
saying he holds an unorthodox view of Islam and seeks to sideline clerical
Lawmaker Ali Motahari, who is close to Rafsanjani, told reporters
on Monday that a rejection of Rafsanjani's candidacy would put the very
principles of the state under question, "because Hashemi (Rafsanjani) had the
biggest role in the Islamic revolution", according to the ILNA news
He derided the idea that Rafsanjani was too old, saying: "How do
they know whether Hashemi can run the country or not?" Motahari also suggested
that Khamenei could step in to push the Guardian Council to approve Rafsanjani's
candidacy if it is initially rejected. The body re-qualified two reformist
presidential candidates in 2005 after Khamenei intervened.
proposed age restrictions for presidential candidates last year, but dropped the
measure after opposition from the Guardian Council.
Many Iranians would
view Rafsanjani's disqualification on the basis of age as a political pretext -
and it might look awkward for Khamenei, who reinstated Rafsanjani as head of the
Expediency Council, an advisory body, in 2012.
"It is hard to fathom a
justification for Rafsanjani's disqualification," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran
analyst at the University of Hawaii. "His disqualification on the basis of not
being sufficiently committed to the Leader will also challenge the Leader's