Ten months before the next parliamentary elections in Iran, regime politicians are concerned about arbitrary disqualification of candidates.
The Guardian Council, a constitutional body controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, disqualified hundreds of candidates in the 2020 legislative elections and barred key presidential candidates in the 2021 presidential vote. The purpose was to hand over government control to Khamenei’s hard-line supporters.
The most prominent individual disqualified by the Council in 2021 was former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, considered a moderate conservative.
Last week, Larijani issued a statement denying any intention to run in the March 2024 parliamentary election, alluding to what transpired in 2021.
It should be noted that in the 44-year history of the Islamic Republic only regime insiders, loyal to the principle of clerical rule have been allowed to run for office. Those who had any ideas of secularism were persecuted and many had to leave the country.
Conservative politician Mohammad-Reza Bahonar
Explaining the Guardian Council's intervention in the elections through arbitrary vetting, prominent conservative politician Mohammad-Reza Bahonar told Entekhab news website on Sunday that one of the reasons the Council offered for Larijani’s disqualification was that he had good relation with former President Hassan Rouhani, despised by Khamenei loyalists.
Bahonar said: "If we are looking for high turnout in the upcoming elections, we need to open the political atmosphere rather than calling for our rivals' disqualification." He added that the country's officials should guarantee a healthy, secure and competitive election.
Meanwhile, Bahonar who was a lawmaker for seven 4-year terms, said the parliament dominated by hardliners should not be involved in revising election laws, as current lawmakers tend to make sure that no one other than themselves are allowed to run.
Reformist activist Ali Mohammad Namazi
In another development, reformist activist Ali Mohammad Namazi told Rouydad24 website that what Larijani has said about purging or purification of political atmosphere by Iran's hardliners alluded to the Guardian Council's vetting of election candidates.
The “strict filtering” by the Council, he said, was meant to bar everyone other than conservative "insiders" from getting elected. "So, what Larijani said meant: In this situation we will skip the trouble of nominating ourselves as candidates and save the hardliners the trouble of getting rid of unwanted candidates," Namazi said.
He added that the regime's leader should know that this situation is not desirable and will push the country toward a political breaking point. Most Iranian politicians believe that political impasse already exists.
Another reformist figure who commented on the issue of vetting and the Guardian Council's intervention in Iranian elections was reformist journalist and activist Ahmad Zeidabadi who spoke with Khabar Online website on Sunday.
Reformist journalist and activist Ahmad Zeidabadi
Zeidabadi said that Larijani's comments were meant to convey the message that he is not going to be deceived once again by playing according to the rules laid down by hardliners.
According to Zeidabadi, Larijani has called for returning to the political processes before the 2021 election, that is allowing various political factions within the system to nominate their candidates for the presidency and giving them equal chance to garner the voters' support.
Meanwhile, answering a question by the conservative Nameh News website that asked why former President Mohammad Khatami no longer tells the people to take part in elections in the same way he did before, former lawmaker Jalal Jalalizadeh said such a call will be effective only if the people are assured that there will be a free and fair election. In the current situation, even if Khatami calls on the people to go to the polls, no one will listen to him, Jalalizadeh said.