Iran’s Guardian Council has ruled that Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, will not be allowed to run as a candidate in next month’s elections for the Assembly of Experts, which coincides with parliamentary elections.
After a full day and night of deliberations on January 25, the council determined which candidates had successfully progressed through to the official election process.
The Assembly of Experts is responsible — at least in principle — for supervising the work of the Supreme Leader, and for selecting his successor. Hassan Khomeini, a reformist, had put himself forward as an assembly member.
The Council’s disqualification of Khomeini was not only a public rejection of the candidate’s bid for election, but also of his standing as a religious scholar. Hardliner attempts to humiliate him began when Khomeini declared his candidacy for the Assembly of Experts. Though he has been referred to as an ayatollah and an Islamic scholar for years, Khomeini was expected to pass a written religious test along with other candidates, despite the fact that a number of religious authorities in the holy city of Qom endorsed him. Several Guardian Council members questioned Khomeini’s knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence and believed he should be disqualified on the basis that he had not taken the test.
Reformists and moderates enthusiastically embraced Khomeini when he announced his candidacy, an excitement that Khomeini tried to quell in order to comply with electoral guidelines and to satisfy the Guardian Council — half of which are appointed by the Supreme Leader. Aware of the importance of pleasing the regime, Hassan Khomeini’s brother Ali spoke about his brother’s candidacy in a way that would meet the approval of Iran’s hardliners, particularly those on the Council.
Despite these overtures, the Council rejected Khomeini’s bid to join the Assembly of Experts.
Under Iranian law, disqualified Assembly candidates have the right to appeal the Council’s decision. The deadline for this is January 30. Khomeini has not stated whether he will launch an appeal.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, currently the president of the Expediency Council, and Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, as well as President Hassan Rouhani, were all successful in their bids to run as candidates for the Assembly.
Majid Ansari, Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs, was rejected for a second time, as were Mahmoud Amjad, a dissenting cleric, and Hassan Khomeini’s father-in-law Mohammad Mousavi-Bojnourdi.
Among the hardliners rejected as candidates were Reza Taghavi, a leading member of the Council of Friday Prayers Leaders, Kazem Sadighi, interim Friday Prayers Leader of Tehran, and Mehdi Taeb, the head of the Iran’s “cyber-warfare” unit. Morteza Agha Tehrani, secretary-general of the extremist hardliner party the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability was rejected from running for a second time.
One surprise was the successful qualification of lawyer Mohsen Esmaili, who also sits on the Guardian Council. If elected, he would be the first non-cleric member of the Assembly of Experts in history.
Rasoul Montajabnia, a member of the reformist National Trust Party, was also successful in his bid, which was another unexpected development in electoral proceedings.
Siamak Rahpeyk, spokesman for the Elections Supervisory Board, said that 45 percent of the candidates for the Assembly of Experts successfully qualified. According to him, 801 individuals had originally registered for the elections, 158 of which later withdrew their names. One hundred and eleven candidates were determined to be ineligible, and 152 contenders failed to take the written test, which is mandatory for most candidates. In the end, 373 candidates were considered, 207 of which were disqualified and 166 of which qualified.
Whether Khomeini and other rejected candidates will appeal in the coming days remains to be seen. But the move to disqualify him is a sign of the serious battle to come between Iran’s reformists and hardliners as election season gets underway — and a warning to anyone who claims to be in a position to forecast the course of Iranian politics.