Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

2 Leading Figures Are Barred from Iran's Presidential Ballot

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

2 Leading Figures Are Barred from Iran's Presidential Ballot

Article excerpt

TEHRAN, Iran -- A former president and a close ally of the departing president were both barred Tuesday from running for president of Iran, a decision that lays bare the deep divisions in the Islamic republic and may be intended to head off the dissent that marred the last presidential election, when millions took to the streets in protest.

The Guardian Council, a vetting panel loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the leaders of the Islamic revolution, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a favorite of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were both found unfit to run in the June 14 election.

State television reported that a total of eight candidates -- among them Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and Tehran's mayor, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf -- were eligible to run. They will be allowed to start campaigning Thursday.

The Guardian Council's decision is bound to anger supporters of the two barred candidates. The reformist movement was largely marginalized by the leadership after the last presidential race in 2009, when millions protested the integrity of the election results. It was widely believed that the reformist candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, had defeated Mr. Ahmadinejad. But the protests were violently suppressed, and opposition political leaders were jailed, put under house arrest or otherwise blocked from politics.

In that context, Mr. Rafsanjani -- once the consummate insider -- and Mr. Mashaei were seen as challengers to the establishment of hard-liners and so-called traditionalists who now wield power. But both have the right to appeal to the supreme leader, and analysts said it is still possible that he might reverse one or both of the disqualifications.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has hinted in speeches over the past few weeks that he would protest the disqualification of his closest aide, Mr. Mashaei, who called his disqualification "unjust" and promised to "follow it up through the supreme leader. …

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