Iran Reinstates Reform Candidates
Ban on Iran Reformists Reversed (Reuters)
Iran’s hardline Guardian Council watchdog has reversed its ban on two reformists excluded from presidential elections on June 17, easing a row that had sparked some calls for a boycott of the vote.
The reinstatement of former Education Minister Mostafa Moin and Vice President for Sports Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh on Tuesday raised the number of candidates to eight and made the election outcome harder to predict.
It followed the intervention of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word in all state matters. Khamenei took the unusual step on Monday of urging the Guardian Council to overturn its disqualification of the two reformists.
Khamenei has said a broad range of candidates is essential to encourage the high voter turnout needed to send a message to Iran’s enemies at a time when the Islamic state faces heightened pressure from Washington which accuses Tehran of building nuclear weapons and backing terrorism.
The Guardian Council had originally cleared six candidates — five of them conservatives. They include two times former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative cleric and renowned powerbroker who leads opinion polls.
Moin is an outspoken reformist who has promised to tackle human rights abuses if elected. Mehr-Alizadeh is not considered a serious contender.
Moin’s reinstatement could offer reformists a lifeline to retain the presidency held by liberal cleric Mohammad Khatami since 1997. Khatami is ineligible to run for a third consecutive term.
In light of the government’s desire for a high turnout (or at least one higher than last year’s election), the reversal isn’t as shocking as it otherwise could have been. But its swift occurrence is certainly a surprise.
While many people are encouraged to see the Guardian Council back down, progress is limited at best. Moin still faces an uphill battle. Even if he were to win, it’s doubtful that reforms will take place, as Khatami’s presidency attests. And, in the long run, the reinstatement may actually help the hardliners:
It may also damage the chances of Rafsanjani, whose moderate message of detente with the West and economic liberalization appeals to reformist supporters.
In a letter to Moin, the largest pro-reform student group urged him not to join the race courtesy of a decree by Khamenei.
“Beware that accepting this decree means confirming all such decrees issued in the past in violation of civil rights,” the Office to Consolidate Unity said in the letter, a copy of which was sent to Reuters.