Draft Bill Barring Dual Nationals From Iran Presidency
The Iranian parliament (Majles) ratified a bill on Tuesday December 15 that bars anyone holding foreign citizenship or residence rights from standing for president. The parliament also asserted that candidates should be at least 40 years of age and no older than 70 when registering their candidacy.
An age limitation would help minimize the number of hopefuls. In past elections, up to 12,000 people have registered as candidates, making it difficult for the constitutional watchdog Guardian Council to narrow down the field to a manageable four or six.
But factions have often seen a political motivation in any suggestions of new conditions. Last month, when a minimum age of 45 was proposed, supporters of the current administration pointed out this would rule out 39-year-old Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi as he is 39 years old. The Communications Minister would still fall short of a minimum age of 40.
At the other end of the age range, Vice-President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, who is 71 and has been suggested as a candidate, would also be ineligible. The Rouhani administration has made it clear it opposes age limits.
The issue of dual nationals and holders of US green cards – which entitle holders to “permanent residency” – became controversial during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), when his opponents alleged that some ministers were dual nationals.
During the first presidential term of Hassan Rouhani (2013-2017), his principlist critics named up to six ministers as dual nationals, and it was suggested in the Majles in 2018 that there were up to 100 dual nationals in both parliament and government. The Intelligence Ministry denied the claims.
Among principlists, Morteza Agha-Tehrani, leader of the Paydari Party, has been alleged to hold US or Canadian residency. Agha-Tehrani studied in Canada for several years and was imam at New York’s Imam Ali Mosque during the 1970s and 1980s.
The proposed legislation, which has yet to be endorsed by the Guardian Council, bars those with both current and previous dual nationality or residency and could apply to many presidential hopefuls. Lists of alleged dual nationals presented at parliament included Rouhani, and some hardliners insist that despite official denials there are hundreds in senior positions who hold, or have held, foreign nationality or residency status.
Based on statements from hardline parliamentarians including Javad Karimi Ghoddousi in July 2019, the conservative-owned Mowj news agency published a list of tens of officials it said were dual nationals or holders of the US green card.
In March 2019, another parliamentarian Abolfazl Abutorabi told the Majles news agency ICANA that hundreds of dual nationals held important positions. He charged that enemies used dual nationals to infiltrate key institutions and called on the judiciary to take strict counter-measures.