Rouhani Challenges Powerful Guardian Council Over Election Rules
President Hassan Rouhani raised the prospect of political deadlock Monday by rejecting last week’s directive from the watchdog Guardian Council setting new rules for approving candidates for June’s presidential elections. The official government news agency IRNA said Rouhani had ordered the interior ministry, which manages elections, to follow judgements of the president’s legal advisor that the interior ministry was “obligated” to accept existing rules and regulations.
But Fars news agency, which is close to hardliners, quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli that he would follow the new council directive in collecting documents from candidates. He had expressed agreement Sunday with the council’s right to define who was eligible to run.
Many in the Iranian media and among politicians have argued that by issuing the directive, the Guardian Council had overstepped its role and had in effect legislated, infringing on prerogatives of both parliament and the president.
Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, the council spokesman, responded to Rouhani’s order by tweeting the new directive should be followed by the interior ministry and all others in the electoral process. “The Council will recognize the registration of those candidates, who have presented the relevant documents according to the directive,” he wrote.
The new directive(link is external) requires that candidates should be between 40 and 75 years old, should hold a master's degree, and have served in an executive position for at least four years, instead of the current eight. They should also have served as a cabinet minister, a governor-general, or mayor at a city with a population over 2 million. Candidates should present police clearance, while military candidates should be major generals or higher.
The age limit set by the council has become particularly contentious as most members of the watchdog are well past 80. But the main issues are legal and even constitutional, as the power to issue new electoral regulations lies with parliament, with presidential approval required. The Guardian Council is one of the bodies tasked to review candidates’ qualifications but not to issue new electoral laws and regulations.
The interior minister by precedent – established in tussles between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad between 2008 and 2011 – is a position which needs the approval of the Leader. Six of the 12 members of the Guardian Council are directly appointed by the Leader.