The core of Iran’s regime seems to be looking for ways to make the upcoming parliamentary elections a bit more credible, given all the limitations on who can run.
One of the political figures much discussed in the past month as a possible leading candidate for the March 2024 legislative elections is former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a moderate conservative who was not allowed to run in the 2021 presidential race by the Guardian Council under the control of Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei.
However, in a statement that sounded like an indirect message to Larijani, the spokesman for the Guardian Council, a body that vets election candidates said: "If someone has been disqualified for running for President, it does not mean he cannot run for parliament."
Entekhab news website quoted Guardian Council Spokesman Tahan Nazif on Wednesday as sayingthat the regulations for parliamentary (Majles) elections are different from those the presidential elections.
Larijani’s disqualification two years ago came as a shock not only for the general public but also for many regime insiders, who could not find a justification as to why a three-term parliament speaker could run for president.
The statement by the Guardian Council now gives Larijani's supporters, generally moderate conservatives and reformists, peace of mind that they can start campaigning for Larijani, hoping that others named in the same elections lists with him will also make it to the parliament.
However, Larijani has not signaled his readiness to run and he is perhaps weighing his options whether to run from Tehran where his election would guarantee the election of another 29 candidates, or from his traditional constituency in Qom.
Considering his cautious character, Larijani might prefer to run from Qom where one or two hundred thousand votes can get him through. However, moderates and reformists might have to persuade him to run from Tehran to benefit from his popularity for other likeminded candidates.
Another politician who was barred from running in two presidential elections, is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, according to the reformist Arman Melli daily, he has been conspicuously silent about the 2024 Majles election.
The daily wrote that the reason for Ahmadinejad's silence is that he wishes to send several of his aides to the Majles and does not want to invite controversy and trouble for them before the elections. Arman Melli added that Ahmadinejad's men might enter the election as a group separate from the likeminded ultraconservative Paydari Party.
Nonetheless, according to the daily, Ahmadinejad's men might link up with Paydari when they deem it beneficial for their electability. However, Ahmadinejad himself is unlikely to run for any office other than the presidency.
Many media outlets in Tehran quoted reformist daily Etemad as having reported about rivalries in the conservative camp. Neocons led by current Majles speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf are attacking the hardliner Paydari Party in a pre-election battle. Ghalibaf's men and their media outlets teasingly call the Paydari politicians "super revolutionaries" and highlight their blunders and inefficiency.
Ghalibaf's neo-cons have threatened the Paydari to either accept a compromise with them or risk being ostracized by other conservative groups, said Etemad. The daily wrote that Ghalibaf's men are aware of Paydari's weaknesses and take advantage to exert their influence.
This comes while many in Iran, including reformist politician Mohammad Sadeq Javadi Hesar are aware that "elections are non-democratic," as he told Etemad Online, and the fate of the elections are determined at Khamenei's office, his Guardian Council, and the IRGC headquarters, as it has been the case in the past two elections.