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Iran Candidate Bans Set Up “Complete Grip on Power” for Hard-Liners

Last week Iran’s Guardian Council – which is charged with vetting candidates who want to run for office, and from which there is no appeal – approved just 8 of some 680 candidates who applied to run in Iran’s June 14th election. Diplomats speaking to AFP were blunt about how the move will ensure zero deviation and zero reform from the country’s hard-line status quo:

“All candidates with a chance of winning are either related to the leader or to the security apparatus,” one Western diplomat, speaking not for attribution, told AFP. “It is not in shades of grey, but all black.”…

“Given what happened in 2009, they’re trying to make this election more predictable,” Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert and senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told AFP. Sadjadpour said that with a loyal president, Khamenei’s grip on power could become complete. “Iran’s most powerful political institutions, the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary, the Guardian(s) Council, the Experts Assembly, and the parliament are (already) controlled by individuals hand-picked by Khamenei or obsequious to him,” he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry also blasted Iran  over the decision. In remarks in Israel on Friday, Secretary Kerry said:

Well, I can’t think of anybody in the world looking at Iran’s election who wouldn’t be amazed by a process by which an unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has actually disqualified hundreds of candidates, potential candidates, according to very vague criteria, which the Iranian people are not privileged to know or judge by… That is hardly an election by standards which most people in most countries judge free, fair, open, accessible, accountable elections.

The sentiment was echoed by French diplomats, but brushed off by Iran.

Of the eight approved candidates, six are hardliners close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and one is a hardliner linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps. Two of the candidates, Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati, have been linked to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

Some foreign policy analysts had suggested that the upcoming Iranian election may mark a moment of relative moderation, and that action against the regime should be delayed until after the balloting in order to avoid empowering hardliners. The composition of the approved candidate list does not seem wholly consistent with that analysis.

[Photo: germeister / Flickr]