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ICC Note: Of the 3000 democratic reformist politicians that sought political office in Iran for this year’s elections, 99% were disqualified in the first vetting.  Even prominent religious leaders in Iran were excluded from participating if they were seen as “too moderate” or too accepting of tolerance and democratic values.  The Council ultimately handpicked its own candidates which set back any hope for the civilians of Iran to see any democratic freedoms granted to them in this election cycle.

2/9/2016 Tehran (Iran Human Rights) – Arbitrary and sweeping disqualifications of moderate candidates for the upcoming elections in Iran by hardline bodies who control the approval process are stripping Iranians of their right to free and fair elections.

The Guardian Council, the clerical body charged with vetting all candidates in the Islamic Republic, has disqualified the vast majority of reformist and moderate candidates for Parliament and for the Assembly of Experts, the body that selects the country’s next supreme leader, in a process completely lacking in transparency or accountability.

“These disqualifications are creating a situation in which there is little competition among candidates or choice for the electorate,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “So why bother with the charade of holding elections?”

“By rigging the elections to ensure that only hardliners will assume office, they are setting the stage for a government that has little domestic legitimacy,” Ghaemi added.

While fierce protests in Iran over the last few weeks against the disqualifications—by citizens, leading clerics, reformist leaders, and even Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani—prompted the Council to reverse their decision on some of the disqualifications, roughly 40% of the applicants, the vast majority of whom are reformist or moderate, remain disqualified by the Council. All of these disqualified candidates had passed a prior vetting process undertaken by the Ministry of Interior.

The vetting process indicates that the hardliners’ base is narrowing to an unprecedented degree. The disqualified applicants are not dissidents, activists, secularists, and others that would present a more direct challenge to clerical rule. Rather, they are consummate insiders, long-time Islamic Republic leaders, and high-level clerical figures.

Their suspect loyalty to an increasingly hardline—many would say reactionary—clique of ultraconservative officials, led by supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and their willingness to entertain cooperative alignments with more moderate and pragmatic factions, rendered them unacceptable to the Council of Guardians.

In a January 21 speech to government officials, President Rouhani directly challenged the Council’s disqualifications in unusually strong terms, stating that Parliament was the “house of the people, not a particular faction,” and that elections would be pointless if there were “no competitors.” He asserted, “If there is one faction and the other is not there, they don’t need the February 26 elections—they go to the Parliament,” and added “No official without the vote of the people would be legitimate.”

In a letter published on February 9 and addressed to President Rouhani, 300 prominent academics and university professors in Iran expressed their deep concern for the “widespread disqualifications of candidates.”

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