Iran's Rohani Calls for More Free and Fair Elections

The president's comments were a stab at Iran's constitutional watchdog, which has disqualified many moderates and reformists from running in the upcoming elections.

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Iranian President Hassan Rohani attends a news conference, Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2016.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani attends a news conference, Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2016.Credit: AP
The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Iran's president Rohani lobbied on Thursday for more free and fair elections in Iran, saying moderate and reformist political factions should also be allowed to run in next month's parliamentary elections.

Hassan Rohani's speech, which was broadcast on state TV, was a stab at Iran's constitutional watchdog, which has disqualified large numbers of moderates and reformists from running in the February 26 vote.

Rohani said that "the Parliament is the house of the people, not a particular faction."

Rohani, who took office on a pledge to bring about reforms, said elections are pointless if there are "no competitors" and that the upcoming balloting will be "the most important job ahead" that will reflect on his administration.

He said that while religious and other minorities — such as Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians whose combined population in Iran numbers less than 500,000 — have four members in parliament in total, larger groups should also be represented.

"What about a faction that has up to ten million supporters," Rohani asked in a reference to estimated number of supporters to moderates and reformists.

"We hope all factions will be able to send their representatives to the parliament," he added.

Rohani spoke a day after Iran's reformist political factions called on the constitutional watchdog to reverse its decision to disqualify moderates and reformists in large numbers. From over 12,000 hopefuls who had applied to run, around 4,700 have been approved by the Guardian Council that vets candidates.

While some hard-liners and conservatives have also been barred, reformists have been most affected. Many were disqualified because they were not seen to be sufficiently loyal to the ruling system, as defined by hard-line council members.

Rohani has vowed to use all his constitutional powers to reinstate those barred, but it's not clear how he will be able to influence the process.

He said Thursday that he assigned Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to consult with the Guardian Council over the case because "talks and consultations are the best way" to settle the dispute.

The disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates could dash hopes that Rohani's allies would dominate the next parliament. The 290-seat house is currently dominated by conservatives.

The barring of moderates and reformists is seen as a tactic by hard-liners worried that Rohani's success in lifting sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal with world powers would boost the moderates' chances at the polls.

The council is now studying complaints from those barred.

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