Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned of threats to the Islamic Republic's "democracy and national sovereignty", after a body dominated by his ultra-conservative rivals disqualified thousands of candidates weeks before elections, AFP reported.

Rouhani's moderate conservatives and their reformist allies are locked in a public quarrel with the Guardian Council over the disqualification of thousands of candidates, including 92 sitting MPs.

The Guardian Council oversees Iran's elections and is charged with vetting candidates. In 2017, for example, it disqualified former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running for president.

The council said it has barred some 9,500 potential candidates from standing, almost two thirds of the 14,500 hopefuls, according to AFP.

Rouhani, whose alliance fears losing its majority in the February 21 polls, said the disqualifications risked appointments being made "elsewhere" than the ballot box.

"The greatest danger for democracy and national sovereignty is the day when elections become a formality," the government's website quoted Rouhani as saying in a meeting with provincial governors.

"May God never bring this day," he added. "Let us reassure the people and tell them our system is not a single-party system."

In an apparent reference to ultra-conservatives, he said "they should at least let there be competition and participation".

Candidates who are disqualified by the Guardian Council are allowed to appeal before the elections.

Despite being touted as a “moderate” reformist, Iran has set new records under Rouhani’s presidency in the number of executions, many for political or religious "crimes".

He has also done little in the way of freeing reformist political leaders who were jailed after protesting the 2009 election and in stopping the limitations on freedom of speech in Iran, despite having openly criticized it.

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