PHOTO: Could powers of Guardian Council be curbed amid Iran’s political in-fighting?

Iran’s Speaker of Parliament has joined the political battle against the Guardian Council, criticizing the disqualification of a reformist MP who won a seat in February’s elections.

Ali Larijani said on Wednesday that the Council was wrong to ban Minoo Khaleghi, a lawyer from Esfahan, after the vote:

We must adhere to the country’s legal system. Because the law has explicitly given a time frame for the Guardian Council’s assessment, my opinion is that this issue cannot be extended after the elections. The Guardian Council’s interpretation differs, however.

Larijani said that he had raised the issue of Khaleghi’s disqualification during a meeting with the Supreme Leader.

The Council claims the power to bar candidates before the elections, and it banned thousands this year in an unsuccesful attempt to prevent the success of the centrist-reformist List of Hope, which won a plurality in Parliament. However, the Council — whose 12 members are appointed by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary — are given no authority to disqualify MPs after the ballot.

The Council blocked Khaleghi in late March for “lack of qualifications”. Reports in Iranian media said she was banned because of photos that appeared to show her without the mandatory head covering, hijab, during visits to Europe and China.

The lawyer says that the pictures are not authentic.

Fight Over Council’s Powers

The case is part of a growing political dispute over the Council’s authority. President Rouhani has sought since last year to curb its role, including the power to disqualify candidates, but has been unsuccessful so far because of the Supreme Leader’s support for the 12-man body.

However, the Khaleghi dispute is now intersecting with other politics after the elections that bolstered the centrist-reformist bloc and limited the conservatives who had dominated the Majlis since 2004.

Larijani is facing a possible challenge for the Speaker’s chair from reformist leader Mohammad Reza Aref. The List of Hope reiterated on social media on Wednesday that Aref will stand for the position.

Meanwhile, the Guardian Council’s hardline leader, 89-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, was selected as chair of the Assembly of Experts this week. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ally of President Rouhani, was expected to stand but backed away. Centrists and reformists are appearing to concentrate on challenges elsewhere in the system — including Parliament — rather than in the Assembly, which has the power to choose the Supreme Leader.