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Iran Election Watchdog Disqualifies Three Main Candidates - Fars Report

Iran’s Fars news agency close to the Revolutionary Guard has reported that the election watchdog, the Guardian Council, has finalized the list of candidates eligible to run in the June 18 presidential election, and has published a list of seven names.

Fars said it has obtained the list and three crucial names are missing from the candidate line-up. Former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri.

While Ahmadinejad’s rejection was widely anticipated, the other two hopefuls being disqualified is a big surprise. Larijani, who is a conservative and has been appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as special envoy for China, was expected to be the main challenger to the likely winner of the election, Ebrahim Raeesi, who is backed by hardliners.

The disqualification of Jahangir would eliminate the main centrist candidate and will almost seal Raeesi’s victory.

It is yet to be seen if the list published by Fars is the real line-up, since the Guardian Council has said it will send its final decision to the interior ministry on Tuesday or Wednesday. But even if the list is correct, Khamenei can always intervene and instruct the watchdog to approve other candidates.

Iranian media and politicians have been widely discussing the possibility of a very low turnout and the elimination of the three presidential hopefuls will all but ensure a lackluster election. A telephone poll conducted by Iran International in early May showed only 27 percent saying they would vote, and Ahmadinejad garnering the same percentage as Raeesi at about 30 percent each.

The disqualification reported by Fars can undermine the credibility of the election even more, after disillusioned voters say that elections in the Islamic Republic are tightly controlled and managed. No dissidents and critics can ever get on the ballot in presidential and parliamentary elections. The Guardian Council is an unusual constitutional mechanism to bar people unwanted by the clergy and Khamenei from running in elections.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened that he will not vote if his candidacy is rejected. He has been holding many campaign gatherings in recent weeks and turnout at those events seem to be high, with many enthusiastic supporters showing up.

His absence from the ballot would likely keep his supporters and many people away from the polls.

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