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Iran’s President Rouhani urges greater ‘competition’ in election

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A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 26, 2021, shows Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a minister council meeting in the capital Tehran. (Photo by – / Iranian Presidency / AFP) / HO /

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday he had asked the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to ensure greater “competition” in June elections after many prominent hopefuls were barred from running.

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“The heart of elections is competition. If you take that away it becomes a corpse,” Rouhani said at a televised cabinet meeting.

“I sent a letter to the supreme leader yesterday on what I had in mind and on whether he can help with this.”

Iran’s candidate-vetting Guardian Council on Tuesday approved seven hopefuls to run in the June 18 poll to succeed Rouhani, a moderate who under the constitution must step down after his second consecutive term.

The body disqualified moderate conservative Ali Larijani, the long-time parliament speaker and a Rouhani ally, as well as his first vice president, Eshaq Jhangiri, among other well-known names.

It was a surprise move that could clear the way for a strong run by ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi won 38 percent of the vote in the 2017 presidential election but was defeated by Rouhani, making him the expected frontrunner this year.

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Fears of low turnout
Rouhani said the supreme leader had “seldom intervened” in the candidate approvals for previous elections, but said “there have been times when he added someone back in with an order”.

This happened in 2005, when he reversed the Guardian Council’s decision to bar two reformist figures, Mostafa Moein and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, the latter of whom is also an approved candidate this year.

But Larijani, who some media believe was named by Rouhani in the letter, has already conceded his disqualification.

“Dear nation of Iran, now that the election was decided to be so, I have fulfilled my duty,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “I am content with God’s will.”

In his remarks, Rouhani also warned of the consequences of a possible low turnout next month and said the system’s “continued legitimacy” is at stake.

A record 57 percent of Iranians stayed away from legislative elections in February last year in which thousands of candidates, many of them moderates and reformists, were disqualified.

The level of voter participation remains a concern and officials including the supreme leader have been urging Iranians to cast their ballots.

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