Iran presidential lineup

May 25, 2021 - 21:5

TEHRAN – The Iranian Interior Ministry finally issued the much-awaited list of candidates who were found eligible to run for president, ending a wave of rumors and speculations over the potential array of candidates in the June presidential election. 

The ministry said in a statement that it received the list of candidates whose qualifications were confirmed by the Guardian Council. The list included a number of prominent figures such as Saeed Jalili, Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, Alireza Zakani, Seyed Amir Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, Mohsen Rezaei, and Abdolnaser Hemmati.

These candidates are now allowed to start election campaigns and promote themselves in the eyes of millions of voters across the country. 

The list of candidates came as a surprise to many observers as it did not include some prominent figures who have been widely thought to be qualified for the 13th presidential election of the Islamic Republic. Former Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, First-Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, and Saeed Mohammad, the former chief of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps’ engineering conglomerate Khatam al-Anbiya, were among the disqualified candidates. 

According to Fars News, the election vetting body disqualified at least 18 candidates who are principlist or close to the principlist faction. It also rejected 14 candidates who are reformists or close to the reformist faction. 

This was a clear indication that the Guardian Council refused to vet candidates on the basis of their political affiliation. In fact, the council set a clear example of impartiality and abiding by law by disqualifying Larijani, who currently serves as an advisor to the Leader on international affairs. 

Larijani was widely promoted by moderate and reformist political circles as a candidate whose ties to the establishment enable him to earn qualification from the council and turn the tide in favor of reformists and their moderate allies in the government of Hassan Rouhani. 

But the Guardian Council made it clear that its vetting process is by no means subject to political or “expediency” considerations. Instead, it would examine the candidates in strict accordance with the law. 

In fact, the disqualification of Larijani indicated that the council never discriminates against candidates from different political and social backgrounds. At the end of the day, Larijani has held high-level posts in the Islamic Republic for years and now is currently serving as an advisor to the Leader. This is another indication that the Guardian Council can discharge its legal duties even when it comes to disqualifying high-level figures.

This brings us to the issue of the fluidity of the vetting process, which is more subject to present-day considerations than to past experiences. In some cases, the Guardian Council confirms individuals who have been disqualified in the past and vice versa. This does not mean that council’s criteria for screening are changing from time to time. The standards and criteria of the Guardian Council are subject to the law as a yardstick for who will be qualified or disqualified.

Regardless of the standards, the council performs its duty in legal but quiet ways. Usually, the oversight body does not publicly reveal the reasons behind its decisions regarding the candidates. And this has paved the way for some political factions to unfairly blame it for disqualifying certain candidates. Despite these criticisms, the council continues to protect the confidentiality of the vetting process. This has much to do with protecting the privacy of candidates.  

If the council reveals the reasons behind the disqualifications, the disqualified candidates’ reputation may be damaged; at the end of the day, the vetting process also includes security details about the candidates. That’s why the Guardian Council continues to vet candidates in a legal way while protecting the candidates’ reputation from being undermined by a formal process that is designed to increase social and political cohesion.

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