LONDON: Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani has slammed the country’s electoral criteria as “too narrow” ahead of June elections.
But dissidents and critics say his comments are a charade designed to give legitimacy to an autocratic regime and conjure a mirage of democracy in the country.
Rouhani, who is set to relinquish his position before the election, said Iran’s 12-member Guardian Council had “no legal authority” to impose new criteria excluding candidates aged younger than 40 and older than 75.
He urged the Interior Ministry, which oversees electoral registrations, to bypass the council’s new age controls.
Their most noticeable effect will be the prevention of Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, minister of communications and information technology, from standing for president.
Critics have long said the Guardian Council has the power to block candidates based on other criteria, including simple disapproval by the country’s religious leadership.
Council member Siamak Raphik defended the age criteria, saying the body is “the sole custodian of the eligibility of candidates.”
Iran’s list of approved electoral candidates will be revealed on May 26 following an appeal period.
Before the last presidential election in 2017, 1,636 people registered to run, a massive increase compared with 686 in 2013. But after inspection by the Guardian Council, just six candidates were allowed to stand.
And despite many women putting their names forward during elections, not a single one has ever been allowed to stand in Iran’s history.
This year’s election will take place amid widespread public disillusionment, a fourth wave of coronavirus and middle-class animosity, meaning low voter turnout is highly likely. The turnout in last year’s parliamentary election dropped to a record low of 42 percent.
Currently, more than 30 political figures have declared a campaign to run for president, including key members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Several major politicians have yet to announce their intentions, as they test support and seek final intelligence on whether they have sufficient approval. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said he wants the eventual president to be “young and pious.”