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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Former President of Iran Disqualified From Race to Succeed Ahmadinejad, State TV Says

Iran’s state television announced Tuesday that Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a two-term former president who called for greater freedom during protests in 2009, had been barred from running in next month’s election to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. BBC News reports that the list of approved candidates presented by the state broadcaster also did not include the name of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s handpicked successor.

Rana Rahimpour, a bilingual reporter for BBC World Service and BBC Persian TV who monitored the broadcast from London, reported that the ballot for June 14 approved by the Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council would include just eight of the hundreds of men who registered as candidates this month.

Press TV, Iran’s state-run English-language satellite news channel, reports that the list of those approved to run includes Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili; the country’s foreign minister in the 1980s, Ali Akbar Velayati; and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran.

As another BBC Persian correspondent, Bahman Kalbasi, observed, the disqualification of a once-powerful figure like Mr. Rafsanjani, a 78-year-old cleric who was close to the Islamic republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, stunned many Iranians and seemed to confirm that the authorities are determined to avoid the popular uprising that followed the disputed vote in 2009.

Mr. Kalbasi added that sources in Iran reported that even text messages with the former president’s name appeared to be blocked inside the country on Tuesday.

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted that it remained possible that Mr. Rafsanjani could still be added to the ballot over the objections of the council, a panel of theologians and jurists. Given Iran’s opaque political system, in which ultimate authority rests with the cleric designated as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Mr. Sadjadpour observed that the presidential election might still rest in the hands of one man.

Arash Karami, who blogs about Iranian news reports, explained on Tuesday that a newspaper whose editor is appointed directly by the supreme leader claimed in a recent editorial that Mr. Rafsanjani had been duped into putting his name forward by foreign powers and the reformists behind the 2009 protests.

The editor of Kayhan newspaper, which is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, believes that Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani “submitted” to the encouragement of “seditionists” around him to run for the presidency.

Hussein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan, wrote that “a few months ago,” Rafsanjani said, “My age is such that I don’t have the required ability to perform the heavy responsibility of the presidency and administrate the country’s affairs, and I believe my presidency is against religious laws and detrimental to the system.” Shariatmadari believes, however, this was before Rafsanjani “was encouraged to become a candidate by the traitorous seditions of 2009 and some American and European officials and centers.”