Iran’s president appeals to top leader to add candidates

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday he wrote the country’s supreme leader to protest a decision by an election watchdog to reject high-profile nominees for the June 18 presidential election.

Rouhani in a weekly Cabinet meeting said he wished Iran’s Guardian Council would give more would-be candidates the opportunity to run. The council on Tuesday barred former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative who allied with Rouhani in recent years, from running. It also nixed the candidacies of current senior vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Yesterday, I had no choice but to send a letter to supreme leader to see if he can help,” he said.

There is precedent for reinstatement. In 2005, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, ordered the Guardian Council to reinstate two candidates.

“The nature of the election is competition, if you take this from the election, it becomes a body without life,” Rouhani said.

Iran’s theocracy partially bases its legitimacy on voter turnout numbers. Officials likely will try to pique the interest of a public worn down by the raging pandemic and an ailing economy ground down by American sanctions.

Iran’s 2020 parliamentary vote saw only a 42.5% turnout, the lowest since 1979. By comparison, Iran’s 2017 presidential election saw a 73% turnout. Government statistics suggest 59.3 million people will be eligible to vote in the June 18 election.

The state-owned polling center ISPA has warned of the possibility of a turnout as low as 39% this year — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Guardian Council approved only seven of some 590 people who registered with the panel of clerics and jurists overseen by Khamenei.

The candidates include judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi. The rest are Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator; Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guard commander; Ali Reza Zakani, a former lawmaker; Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh, a current lawmaker; Mohsen Mehralizadeh, a former provincial governor; and Abdolnasser Hemmati, the current head of Iran’s Central Bank.

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