Guardian Council passes 6 of 1,636 applicants for May 19 election


Iran’s Guardian Council has approved six candidates to stand in the May 19 Presidential election, including President Hassan Rouhani and two leading conservative challengers, cleric Ebrahim Raisi and Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

The Council blocked an attempt by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to re-enter front-line politics. It not only barred Ahmadinejad’s candidacy, but also that of his former Vice President Hamid Baghaei.

The 12-member Council, appointed by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary, also disqualified the rest of the 1,636 applicants.

Rouhani’s 1st Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri was also cleared to run. When he registered, Jahangiri said he wanted to take some conservative-hardline attention away from the President. However, he is also likely a Plan B centrist option if Rouhani, likely to be attacked over his record on the Iranian economy and supposed weakness towards the US, falters.

Raisi is a newcomer to high-profile politics. However, he was appointed last year as the custodian of the multi-billion-dollar religious organization Astan Qods Razavi. A former Attorney General, he won the poll of the new conservative-hardline bloc Popular Front of the Islamic Revolution Forces.

Qalibaf finished second in that ballot, although the Popular Front subsequently said it would not a final choice of its preferred candidate until later in the campaign. A former high-ranking officer in the Revolutionary Guards and Chief of Police, Qalibaf was unsuccessful in the 2013 election, when four conservative and hardline candidates split their votes as Rouhani won a surprise first-victory.

The mayor’s reputation has also suffered in recent months with allegations of corruption and the deadly fire at Tehran’s iconic Plasco Building, which exposed the under-resourced emergency services.

The other two candidates are likely place-holders in the campaign. Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim, a member of the Expediency Council, was a senior aide to the Supreme Leader when he was President of Iran in the 1980s. He is also a former Culture Minister.

Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, a centrist, was a Vice President under former Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami and an Industries Minister.

No reformist candidate was approved by the Council.

No Live Debates

The Presidential Elections Advertising Commission announced that live debates between Presidential candidates, part of the 2009 and 2013 campaigns, will be recorded this year. No reason was given for the decision.

Hesamuddin Ashna, an advisor to Rouhani, said the President intends to appeal the decision. Qalibaf and Raisi also said they welcomed live debates.

Rouhani Criticizes Judiciary Crackdown on Communications

President Rouhani has criticized the judiciary’s latest crackdown on communications, in a building battle between the Government and the judiciary over detentions and restrictions on media.

On Monday the judiciary blocked voice calls on the Telegram messaging system, sending a letter to 20 Internet service providers. The service was introduced on April 9. It was barred the next day by mobile phone operators, but ISPs continued to allow clients to make calls.

Rouhani told university officials and faculty members, “We must not distance [ourselves] from technological developments and, instead of blocking access to them, the youth must become prepared for decent interaction with tomorrow’s technologies”.

The Intelligence Minister has pointed said that his department was not involved in the judiciary’s recent arrest of 12 administrators of reformist channels on Telegram.