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Ex Minister of Interior Tells Guardian Council: Who Authorized You to Screen Candidates?



As elections for the next parliament get closer, concerns grow among hardline Principlists that their candidates may be disqualification by the Guardian Council to run in the voting. A former minister of interior during president Khatami’s presidency last week directly questioned the authority of the Guardian Council in vetting candidates to national elections. “Who has said that you should be assessing the qualifications of candidates?” asked cleric Abdol-Vahed Mousavi Lari in an unprecedented challenge to a body that has been systematically disqualifying candidates to national elections for decades.

He raised this question at the first organizational gathering of the newly-created Nedaye Iranian (The Call of Iranians). “One of the keystones of the constitution is that voting is the integral part of the regime. Those who disagree with people’s right to vote are acting against the law and goodness,” he said.

Lari in act is of course addressing ayatollah Khamenei’s views. In the month of Dey (December/January of 2012) Iran’s supreme leader had used the very words (ehraze salahiyat, which mean ‘determining the qualifications’ of a candidate) for the Guardian Council when differences were at their height between the ministry of interior and the Guardian Council over the elections for the seventh Majlis. Khamenei had expressly said that the Council must definitively and forcefully determine the qualifications of candidates. And the Council did precisely that: It rejected half the candidates for the Majlis elections and disqualified some 80 sitting members of the sixth Majlis, despite public protests by President Mohammad Khatami and Majlis leader Mehdi Karoubi.

It appears that President Hassan Rouhani’s views to differ from those of ayatollah Khamenei. A few weeks earlier, Rouhani had said in the presence of provincial governors that, “Election executive and supervisory commissions carry a heavy burden. The determination of the qualification is based on law and nothing else. We do not have a meter to judge qualifications and so must apply the law as the standard and not go beyond that. Governors should not heed to any pressure.”

The constitution of the Iran gives the Guardian Council the responsibility of “overseeing” elections for the Experts Assembly on Leadership, the presidency, the Majlis and referendums.” The constitution provides that the Council itself can interpret this constitutional provision. In 1991, the then-secretary of the Guardian Council announced that the Council had the authority and responsibility to screen candidates and oversee the implementation of all phases of elections.

The Guardian Council has in the past on numerous occasions denied candidates on the basis of its own interpretations. Ahmad Janati, the current head of the Guardian Council has said that the “problem is with those who want to get into the Experts Assembly and the Majlis at any cost.”

Last month as well, the spokesperson of the Guardian Council Nejatollah Ibrahimian had publicly said, “The election law can easily take care of the issues that came about in the 2009 presidential election. He added that the council viewed anyone who threated the security of the regime to have questionable qualifications to run for public office.

For the next Majlis elections in February, a large group of reformers plan to make themselves candidates, centering around the ideas of Mohammad Khatami. It is not clear how the Guardian Council and the regime in general is going to respond to this. Khatami is practically banned from being mentioned in the media.

After Khatami’s sister and mother passed away, ayatollah Khamenei did not address his condolences to him but other family members. Other senior officials such as Javad Karimi Ghodoosi – a hardline member of the Majlis – had used ayatollah Khamenei’s words to belittle and accuse Khatami.

Rooz online