In a foreboding sign for Iranian politics, the Interior Ministry has disqualified more than a dozen sitting members of parliament from running in the March elections.

The Interior Ministry has conducted the initial screening, and additional candidates, including current members of parliament, are anticipated to face disqualification by the conservative Guardian Council, operating under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

For months, there has been speculation among politicians and commentators about whether the March elections would be more competitive, after two scandalous elections in 2020 and 2021, when most non-hardliner candidates were barred in a highly questionable vetting process.

Three of the five MPs are lawmakers from Tabriz including outspoken Ahmad Alirezabeigi. He revealed a significant case of financial corruption involving over one hundred members of parliament who were purportedly bribed by a former industry minister to avoid impeachment. The alleged bribe involved hundreds of SUVs gifted to dozens of lawmakers.

According to Shargh daily, the other lawmakers from Tabriz who has been disqualified by the Interior Ministry are Massoud Pezershkian, a staunch reformist critic of the Raisi administration, and Alireza Monadi. During the past four years, Pezeshkian has harshly criticized the government for the large exodus of Iranian medical staff to other countries to evade hardships brought about the current economic crisis blamed on the regime’s adversarial foreign policy.

Lawmaker Ahmad Alirezabeigi

Pezeshkian had also criticized the government for the shortage of medicine, rising prices and other matters on various occasions. Meanwhile, as a reformist lawmaker, Pezeshkian also criticized his colleagues in the parliament (Majles) for chanting slogans such as death to other countries, instead of trying to correct the state of affairs in Iran. "We need to tolerate others and work and collaborate with the world," he said adding that "we need to create solidarity inside Iran." He has also called for reforms in Iran and demanded the replacement of Raisi's inefficient cabinet ministers.

Another outspoken lawmaker who has been barred from running for the next parliament is Gholamreza Nouri Ghezeljeh who is very well known for his criticism of the Raisi administration's economic policies and the failure to control the inflation rate in Iran. Ghezelje is also a staunch critic of the government's restrictive cultural policies including the bill to restrict Iranian's access to social media.

In one of his latest speeches at the Majles he lashed out at the government for attempting to invade Iranians' privacy through a plan officially introduced as a bill to "monitor the citizens' lifestyle." While the Majles was approving the bill last Tuesday, Ghezeljeh pointed out that such a monitoring is against Article 25 of the Iranian Constitution which bars the government from spying on citizens’ private lives. He warned that any study of lifestyle should not include the private lives of citizens and invasion of their privacy. 

Another outspoken MP also barred from re-election is Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi, a member of parliament's National Security and Foreign Relations Committee. He told the press that he will take his complain about his disqualification to God almighty.

An advocate of openness to international community, Jahanabadi has continuously supported the Idea of Iran joining international conventions such as the FATF conventions against money laundering and financing of terrorism. Last month, while Iran's radicals and hardliners were once again blamed for the impasse in the country's economy, politics and foreign policy, Jahanabadi called for a powerful reformist minority in the Majles to counterbalance hardliners. He said: "We need to harness and control the radicals. A powerful reformist minority can have a good impact on the Majles."

Jahanabadi is also known for a comment in August in which he acknowledged that the consequences of last year's protests continue to impact the nation's psychology.

The disqualified MPs may appeal the Interior Ministry's verdict, however, the totalitarian government in Tehran, needs to have some of its critics punished by disqualification as a lesson for the new lawmakers who win the next Majles.

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