Iran's conservative dominated Guardian Council has barred nearly one third of the current members of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) from running for the upcoming parliamentary elections, official news agency IRNA and semei-official agency ISNA reported Sunday January 12.
Some 800 candidates were also disqualified by the Interior Ministry last month. However, the 80 or so MPs whose disqualification was announced on Sunday comprise one of the largest number of incumbent MPs ever barred from running for the Majles.
Election candidates need to get through a rigorous and otherwise politically biased vetting process by the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council before they can run for parliament.
Well-known members of the parliament, Ali Motahari from among the conservatives and Mahmoud Sadeqi from the reform camp have also been disqualified by the Guardian Council. Both of them were noticeably vocal at the Majles during the past four years.
Motahari who found his way to the current Majles with support lent to him by reformists is known for challenging hardliners including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's views and Sadeqi is known for his support for human rights. Motahari told ISNA on Sunday that he has not received any notification about the result of the vetting.
The Council has also barred prominent hardliner lawmakers including Mohsen Kouhkan, Nader Ghazipour, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini and Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar from running for the upcoming Majles, hardline Fars news agency reported.
Naqavi Hosseini a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majles, is the MP who revealed some 7,000 protesters were in jail following the protests that shook Iran in November.
Meanwhile, other prominent reformist MPs including Fatemeh Saeedi, Tayebeh Siavoshi and Elias Hazrati (the managing editor of Etemad newspaper) and Mohammad Reza Tabesh (a political figure close to former reformist president Mohammad Khatami) have also been disqualified.
Meanwhile, the reformist Unity of Nation Party has announced that only one of its current MPs has been qualified to run for the next Majles. Reformist women's faction, Zanan Noandish, also says only one of its candidate, current MP Farideh Owlad Qobad got through the vetting.
Another reformist political organization, the Progressive party, has announced that none of its 10 candidates have been qualified by the Guardian Council.
In an unlikely event, hardline clerical organization The Militant Clerics Association has announced that only one of its many candidates, Majid Ansari, has been qualified by the Guardia Council.
From the moderate conservative Larijani's camp, the Guardian Council has disqualified Behrouz Nemati, a political figure close to Larijani and a member of the Majles presidium. Larijani himself is not running for the next Majles.
Those disqualified have five days to challenge the Guardian Council's ruling. In the past, the Council members were rarely observed to change their mind about disqualifications.
The widespread disqualification of current lawmakers could be a move to pave the way for first-time contenders, mainly young hardliners, who have registered as candidates for the new Majles.
As internal and external pressures have mounted for Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard, the move to stack parliament with trusted hardliners indicates a tendency to retreat behind the barricades to resist any change.
There are at least two separate lists of 30 hardliner conservative candidates for Tehran although official campaigning has not started yet. Political heavyweights among conservatives such as former Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and ultraconservative party Paydari have been grooming young conservatives who have registered as candidates.
However, Qalibaf, Saeedi and Paydari leader Mojtaba Aqa Tehrani are not likely to be candidates themselves. All three appear to be active as kingmakers ahead of the Majles elections.
The Iranian state TV which is under Khamenei's control has been interviewing the hardline candidates on a daily basis without characterizing them as candidates.
The next Majles election is to be held on February 21.
In the meantime, dozens of candidates from various political parties told ISN that they have not received any notification from the Guardian Council about their qualification or disqualification, although the Council has declared the end of vetting Saturday night. Shahindokht Molaverdi, a former presidential aide is among these candidates.
Various political parties including the reformist Neda-ye Iranian and the centrist Executives of Construction and Justice and Development parties have said they are assessing the situation of their candidates in the provinces.
Iranian reformists had said earlier that they might not take part in the elections if all of their candidates are disqualified.
However, six weeks before the elections, there is very little visible interest in the elections among the media and the public partly because of major political developments and protests. Meanwhile, the undermining of the functionality of the Majles because of political interventions by Khamenei and his appointees at the Expediency Council and Guardian Council, as well as the poor performance of the legislature in the current term has led to disillusionment and frustration among potential voters.