Iran Watchdog Undermines President, Parliament In Election Interference
Iran's hardliner-dominated Guardian Council has issued a controversial directive about the upcoming presidential election candidate qualifications which has slashed the hopes of several hopefuls.
While legislation ratified by the Majles (parliament) to amend the country's election law has been waiting for the final approval by the Council, the Iranian press and political figures have said on Thursday [May 6] that the directive by the Guardian Council is unconstitutional.
According to the new directive, the candidates should be between 40 to 75 years old, they should hold a master's degree and have served in an executive position for at least four years, instead of the current eight years. They should also have a record as a former cabinet minister, or a governor-general, or mayor at a city with over two million population. Candidates should present police clearance upon their registration, and military candidates should be major generals or higher in rank.
The centrist daily Arman quoted Azar Mansouri, the spokeswoman for Iran's Reform Front, as saying that President Hassan Rouhani should issue a constitutional warning to the Guardian Council. The daily, however, doubted Rouhani has the will to challenge the powerful council.
Other politicians have also warned that the Guardian Council is not a legislative body and should not intervene in law-making.
Iranian lawyer Ali Mojtahedzadeh reminded in a May 6 tweet that the Guardian Council has undermined the authority of Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and President Rouhani at the same time. According to the Iranian Constitutional Law, legislation must be approved by the Majles and then introduced by the President before they can be implemented.
Many Iranian journalists and political figures opined that the directive aims at securing Iranian conservatives' victory in the election. Seraj Mirdamadi, an Iranian journalist in France, tweeted on the same day that "Iranian conservatives can win the election only if 1) all reformist candidates are disqualified or none of them wins a great number of votes due to a second reformist in the competition, 2) if many people refuse to go to the polls, 3) if the law limits people's choices, and 4) if the entire election process is engineered." The directive by the Guardian Council does numbers 3 and 4 in this list.
Reformist candidate Mostafa Tajzadeh said the Guardian Council directive undermines the Constitution, particularly its Article 9 which says no authority can limit the people's rights.
Several well-known candidates will be eliminated by the new rules, including IRGC-linked candidate Saeed Mohammad who cannot run as he lacks four years of executive experience.
But the number of those who have already declared their candidacy and may not be able to run is much higher. Many of the candidates, even those who have introduced themselves as "doctor", lack solid academic credentials. Some of those doctorate holders have never been to any academic center after high school, and one has not even finished high school.
Guardian Council's justification for introducing the new criteria is to narrow down the large number of those who nominate themselves as presidential candidates. According to Kayhan newspaper on Thursday, in the previous election in 2017 over 1,636 candidates were registered at the Interior Ministry, but more than 1200 of them did not hold even an undergraduate degree. Over 300 of the presidential candidates in 2017 had criminal records.
While nearly all Iranian newspapers have criticized the Guardian Council's new criteria, Khamenei-funded hardline daily Kayhan welcomed the new rules and did not challenge its inconsistency with the Iranian Constitution. The Kayhan opined that "the new directive will eliminate the perils of the election."