Ahmadinejad protests disqualification of protégé

Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (left) and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei.— Photos: AFP

Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (left) and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei.— Photos: AFP  

Says would use ‘full legal capacity’ to get decision reversed

Iran’s outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has protested against the disqualification of his protégé, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, from next month’s presidential elections, triggering speculation of a wider clash between the President and institutions loyal to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad said he would seek the reversal of the powerful Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify Mr. Mashaei and cannily dragged the Supreme Leader also into the controversy. “I ask those who support me and Mr. Mashaei to be patient, because there will be no problem because of the presence of the Leader [of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei],” he said during an interaction with the media. The President’s defiance of the Guardian Council, which on Tuesday had announced that the June 14 presidential contest would be confined to eight candidates, has opened the floodgates on speculation as to whether Mr. Ahmadinejad has a ‘Plan B’ in case the Supreme Leader rejects his plea.

During his media interaction, the President said he would “take up this issue until the last moment” with the Supreme Leader, signalling that as of now, he does not want his pro-Mashaei campaign to spill beyond the country’s legal institutional structures.

Mr. Ahmadinejad fired his salvo after Mr. Mashaei’s campaign office sought the intervention of the President in his capacity as the “executor of the Constitution”. A statement on behalf of Mr. Mashaei said he would use “the full legal capacity of the country” to persuade the Guardian Council to reverse its decision.

The Guardian Council had also disqualified Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani from contesting elections, but the former President and regime-insider since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 decided to throw in the towel on Wednesday. Eshaq Jahangiri, the head of Mr. Rafsanjani’s election campaign office, said the former President will not contest the Guardian Council’s decision.

While the controversy over the Guardian Council’s decision grabbed headlines, there was significant activity behind the scenes to strengthen the candidacy of Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s National Security Council, for the presidency. On Monday, Kamran Baqeri Lankarani dropped his bid for the presidency and pledged support for Mr. Jalili after the two met.

Mr. Lankarani is a protégé of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline and influential cleric, who believes Iran has strayed from the values of the 1979 revolution. Iran’s Principlist Perseverance Front had chosen Mr. Lankarani as the frontrunner for the 11th presidential election.

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