Iran’s president is to challenge a decision to disqualify his top aide from a vote to elect his successor, but former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said he has no objections to his own ban.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday that the Guardian Council’s removal of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the final candidate list was an act of oppression and he would take the case to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.
“He has been a victim of injustice,” he said of his former chief of staff in comments posted on his website.
Ahmadinejad, who is prevented from running in the June 14 ballot owing to term limits, said that Mashaei would be beneficial for the country and he was hopeful that the matter would be resolved.
“In my opinion there will be no problem with the Leader and I will take up this issue until the last moment with him,” Ahmadinejad said, according to ISNA news agency.
There had been wide speculation that Mashaei would be excluded from the list but less for Rafsanjani, a two-term president and present head of the Expediency Council, a position appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.
|Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was president of Iran from 1989 until 1997 [AFP]|
However, Rafsanjani’s campaign manager Eshagh Jahangiri told ISNA news agency on Wednesday that the he would not object to his disqualification.
“Mr Hashemi has always been among the pillars of the regime and will remain so, God willing,” Jahangiri said.
The exclusion of Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the presidential ballot has given establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favour with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles.
It pushes moderate and opposition voices further to the margins as Iran’s leadership faces critical challenges such as international sanctions and talks with world powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
International political analyst Alireza Nader told Al Jazeera that the decision would further frustrate the Iranian people.
“Rafsanjani was disqualified because Ayatollah Khamenei the supreme leader sees him as a challenge and so he does not want anybody of his standing to run in the election,” he said.
“Khamenei wants to make sure that, yes, there are some candidates but they follow his line and don’t really challenge his domestic and foreign policy agenda.
“The Iranian regime is basically telling the Iranian people that their vote doesn’t matter, that Ayatollah Khamenei derives his power from God and that he really, in a lot of ways, should be Iran’s absolute ruler.”
Saeed Jalili, the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, is now seen by many as he frontrunner to win the presidential poll.
Other candidates who were approved were Hassan Rowhani, a close Rafsanjani ally, and Ali-Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister.
Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran since 2005, is also included in the list, as well as Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, the former speaker of parliament, and Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who came third in the 2009 presidential election.
Stanford University graduate and former vice president for Khatami, Mohammed Reza Aref, is the only reformist running in the election.
Female candidates excluded
Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a member of election watchdog, said last Thursday that women could not be presidential candidates, effectively killing the largely symbolic bids by about 30 women seeking the presidency.
Yazdi said that the “law does not approve” of a woman in the presidency and a woman on the ballot was “not allowed”.
A total of 686 people had registered to replace Ahmadinejad, who cannot run for a third mandate because of term limits.
Any of the choices would create a possibly seamless front between the ruling clerics and presidency after years of political turmoil under Ahmadinejad, who tried to challenge the theocracy’s powers to make all major decisions and set key policies.
Iran’s presidency, meanwhile, is expected to convey the ruling clerics’ views on the world stage and not set its own diplomatic agenda.
While the election is not expected to bring major shifts in Iran’s position on its nuclear programme – which Tehran insists is peaceful despite Western fears it could lead to atomic weapons – it could open opportunities to renew stalled talks with a six-nation group that includes the US.
Abbas Araqchi, a foreign ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday that Iran’s nuclear stance would not change before or after the election.