Record number of candidates blocked from Iran election

This widespread discrimination against reformist candidates could mean the final death knell for the Iran nuclear deal. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 February 2020

Record number of candidates blocked from Iran election

  • The disqualifications make a hard-liner parliament significantly more likely

LONDON: With parliamentary elections due on Feb. 21, Iran’s clerical establishment has blocked more candidates from running than at any time since the 1979 revolution.

In addition, the Guardian Council — comprising 12 senior religious and legal scholars appointed by Iran’s supreme leader — has
used its sweeping power over elections to prevent 90 percent of reformist candidates from running for office.

Roughly 9,000 people, including 90 sitting MPs, have been blocked from running on grounds ranging from financial irregularities and drug use to “not being faithful to Islam.”

The disqualifications make a hard-liner parliament significantly more likely, despite the popularity of reformists in the last election. 

In 2016, reformists and their allies swept to victory with 41 percent of the vote, compared with just 29 percent for hard-liners. 

Criticism of the bans has erupted in Iran, with the reformist policymaking High Council accusing the Guardian Council of bias against its candidates.

If the Guardian Council continues on this path, the High Council said, 230 out of 290 seats will have no reformist candidates, and 160 constituencies will have no competitor.

President Hassan Rouhani has spoken out against the Guardian Council, saying: “We can’t simply announce that 1,700 candidates have been approved and ignore the question of how many political groups those people represent. That’s not what an election is about.”

This widespread discrimination against reformist candidates could mean the final death knell for the Iran nuclear deal, said Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. 

“A swing of parliament to a conservative and hard-line majority will make political life harder for the remaining supporters of the Iran nuclear deal in government,” she added.

“If Iran’s Guardian Council resort to mass disqualification of the reformists to weaken the Rouhani government, then this will only further erode the legitimacy of the parliamentary system.”

FASTFACT

Roughly 9,000 people, including 90 sitting MPs, have been blocked from running on grounds ranging from financial irregularities and drug use to ‘not being faithful to Islam.’

Despite parliament’s limited power, it does have influence over “bread and butter issues,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy director for the Middle East program at Chatham House. 

She added that while parliament cannot directly influence foreign policy, “it can contribute to a hard-line populist atmosphere creating a climate around foreign policy. It can, for instance, call for the impeachment of the president, and has in the past.”

Iranian parliamentary elections also set the tone for future presidential elections, Vakil said, and even “for the succession to (Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei.”

The Guardian Council began barring candidates in January while the country was wracked by countrywide protests, Dr. Mahsa Rouhi, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said at the time.

Those protests were in response to the government’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane and the subsequent cover-up.


Dubai government employees to start returning to work on Sunday

Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road deserted during the coronavirus curfew imposed by authorities. (AFP)
Updated 27 May 2020

Dubai government employees to start returning to work on Sunday

  • Emirate is ‘heading in the right direction’ as it gradually reopens following success in handling pandemic

DUBAI: Half of Dubai’s government employees can return to their offices on Sunday, and the rest will be able to go back on June 14, the emirate’s government announced Wednesday.

The return to work will, however, be made with “intensified precautionary measures,” to protect workers, Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said. 

“Our investments in the future paid off sooner than expected,” he also said on Twitter. “It is reassuring to know we’re heading in the right direction.”

Many businesses across retail, entertainment, sports and fitness industries have already been allowed to reopen. On Monday, Dubai announced it would be easing restrictions on movement, allowing people to move freely between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. from Wednesday. 

Sheikh Hamdan also hailed the Dubai government’s handling of the crisis, saying no “vital services were affected despite the precautionary measures and movement restrictions imposed.”

The UAE reported 31,086 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday; with more than half of those infected having recovered. The country’s death toll currently stands at 253.