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Ahmadinejad to Contest Ally's Ban from Elections

Iran's President says he will ask supreme leader Khamenei to reverse the disqualification of his close aide from the presidential election.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/23/2013, 5:44 AM

Ahmadinejad
Ahmadinejad
AFP photo

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday he will ask supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to reverse what he branded the unjust disqualification of a close aide from next month's presidential election, AFP reports.

The conservative-dominated Guardians Council on Tuesday eliminated both the aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as well as ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from a list of eight candidates for the June 14 election.

It gave no explanation, and those ruled out have no right to appeal the decision by the vetting body whose members are directly or indirectly appointed by Khamenei.

But Ahmadinejad said he would still take up the matter with the supreme leader, who has the final say in the Islamic republic's political affairs.

"I will pursue this case through the supreme leader until the last moment and I hope this problem will be solved," he said in remarks published on the presidency's website and quoted by AFP.

Mashaie had been "a victim of injustice," added Ahmadinejad, who himself cannot stand for re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

Khamenei has the power to ask the council to review Mashaie's case, as he once did in 2005. That intervention resulted in the reinstatement of two reformist candidates.

At the same time, Rafsanjani's campaign manager Eshagh Jahangiri told ISNA news agency the moderate former president "will not protest regarding his disqualification."

"Mr. Hashemi has always been among the pillars of the regime and will remain so,” he added.

Rafsanjani's eldest daughter Fatemeh, cited by the opposition site Kaleme.com, said the disqualification of her father on the basis of his advanced age was "a pretext."

"They called my father and told him to withdraw from the race (the morning before announcing the approved candidates) but my father said he will not withdraw since 'I cannot betray people who urged me to come forward'," she said without elaborating, according to AFP.

"There are many people of advanced aged who hold high-ranking posts in the country and also are ill. Therefore it is utterly evident that age is a pretext," she added.

Rafsanjani, who turns 79 in August, currently chairs the Expediency Council, Iran's highest political arbitration body.

In 2009, he openly questioned the handling of the 2009 presidential election, which provoked massive street protests on claims of fraud.

Guardians Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai, without naming Rafsanjani, said frailty and old age had been factors in the eliminations.

Only eight candidates won approval to stand -- five conservatives close to Khamenei, two moderates and a reformist.

The council's decision was welcomed by some 150 deputies in the 290-seat Iranian parliament.

The disqualifications appeared to put Saeed Jalili, a figure close to Khamenei known for his tough negotiation stance in Iran's atomic talks with world powers, in the front seat for the election. Jalili has pledged to “resist” western demands regarding his country’s nuclear program if he is elected.

"In the conservative camp, the tide is turning in favor of Jalili," said Amir Mohebian, a conservative political analyst.

Other analysts agreed, reported AFP.

Jalili's conservative rivals include Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, ex-foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, ex-commander of the Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezai and former parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel.

Two figures seen as moderate conservatives are also on the list of approved candidates: former nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, and Mohammad Gharazi, a former minister who served under Rafsanjani and under opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is currently under house arrest.

The reformists will have only one candidate in the election in Mohammad Reza Aref, who served as first vice president under president Mohammad Khatami.

A total of 686 candidates had signed up to run for the presidency and succeed Ahmadinejad.

Rowhani recently accused Ahmadinejad of needlessly incurring crippling economic sanctions.

"I have come forward to save Iran's economy and forge a constructive interaction with the world through a government of wisdom and hope," he said, adding, "This administration made fun of sanctions, deriding them as scrap paper, while we could have avoided them or to some extent reduced" their effect.

Tehran mayor Ghalibaf has said that Ahmadinejad’s constant denial of the Holocaust was damaging to the Islamic Republic, adding that it became an “excuse for our biggest enemies, which are the Zionists, and affected the goals of the Palestinians.”