Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
(photo credit: DATE IMPORTED: April 19, 2013 Iran's President Mah)
DUBAI - Iranian authorities on Tuesday barred former President
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a relative moderate, from running in the June 14
election, along with a protege of the current president, leaving mainly
hardliners left to contest the vote.
Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim
Mashaie, a close aide to current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, failed to make
it onto a list of candidates approved by the Guardian Council, state news
agencies and television reported.
Both Rafsanjani, a relative moderate
who was president between 1989 and 1997, and Mashaie, an almost constant
presence by Ahmadinejad's side, have expressed views that have upset Iran's
hardline clerical elite.
They made their election bids at the last
moment, shaking up a race that had no front runner and - with reformist leaders
under house arrest - at risk of low voter turnout that would raise questions
about its democratic credibility.
Their absence means hardliners fiercely
loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now dominate the
The Ministry of Interior named eight approved candidates,
including Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, foreign affairs advisor
to Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer
Also approved were Mohsen Rezaie, a former head of the
Revolutionary Guards, Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, another close aide to Khamenei,
Hassan Rohani, a former nuclear negotiator who is close to Rafsanjani, former
telecommunications minister Mohammad Gharazi and Mohammad Reza Aref, the only
reformist on the list.Pillar
The last presidential election, in 2009,
was followed by the biggest street unrest since the 1979 revolution, with
reformist voters saying it had been fixed to ensure a second term for
The two losing reformist candidates, Mehdi Karoubi and
Mirhossein Mousavi, although not charged with any crime, have been under house
arrest for the last two years.
Rafsanjani, regarded as a "pillar of the
revolution", has been close to the heart of power since the Islamic Republic was
established in 1979. His candidacy was regarded as a significant threat to all
The 78-year-old lost much influence after lending tacit
support to the reformist opposition after it disputed the 2009 re-election of
Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani criticised the crackdown on protesters, angering
hardliners as a result.
Mashaie is also viewed with suspicion by many at
the heart of the Islamic Republic who believe he seeks to erode clerical
authority. He said he would ask Khamenei to overturn the decision to bar
"I consider my disqualification unjust and I will pursue a
resolution to it via the supreme leader," Fars new agency quoted him as
His campaign office also issued a statement soon after the
announcement saying it would pursue "all legal capacities" for a review of the
The Guardian Council, a panel of 12 clerics appointed by the
Supreme Leader and Islamic jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by
parliament, has the power to reject any candidate it deems unfit.
reasons were given for their decision to bar Rafsanjani and Mashaie.
is under increasingly tight economic sanctions, mostly imposed by the United
States and the European Union over their concerns about its nuclear
A new president would be unlikely to make any rapid change to
Iran's nuclear or foreign policy, both of which are controlled by the supreme
leader, but analysts say Rafsanjani would have sought a thaw in relations with