Leaving Islam



‘Guardian Council’ was about to roil Iran ’s June 17 presidential election  

A.H. Jaffor Ullah


Lately, Iran has been in the global news on two accounts.  First, it wants to blast off nuke to join the coveted nuclear club.  Second, its ‘Guardian Council’ tried in vain to roil the upcoming presidential election.  In my earlier commentary, I have written how Iran wants to become a member of the nuclear club by thumbing its nose to George Bush.  In this article, I will focus on how Iran ’s ‘Guardian Council’ (or, is it their Guardian Angel!) is again poking its nose to roil the election for the highest seat in the nation.  

BBC on May 22, 2005, blurted out: “ Iran bars pro-reform candidates.”  I was astounded reading the news about eligibility requirement imposed by Iran’s ‘Guardian Council’ who became the sole arbiter of who could run for the highest office or any office for that matter and who couldn’t.  As per news, more than 1000 candidates submitted their qualification papers, which were then vetted by the Council.  The Council had assumed the role of a watchdog body to screen candidates.  To the chagrin of many, the Council disqualified most candidates and allowed only 6 out of 1000 candidates to run for the office; the presidential election is slatted for June 17, 2005.  Among those disqualified are Mr. Mastafa Moin, who represented Iran ’s largest reformist party, and Mr. Mohsen Mehralizadeh, another well-known candidate.  

It is worth mentioning here that the parliamentary polls that were conducted on February 20, 2004, were also mired in controversy after the same Council of Guardians watchdog barred about 2,500 reformist candidates.  Iran ’s powerful clerics have very cleverly appointed 12 men into the council to safeguard their interest.  This way they could cling to the power for eons.  Democracy already received a black-eye visible from continent away by the actions of the ‘Guardian Council.’  In the parliamentary election of February 2004, the Council vetted the credentials of about 2500 reformist candidates only to declare them not fit for the position.  Needless to say, in that farcical election Mullahs recaptured more seats in the parliament and thereby put an end to reform in Iran .  

This time around, the ‘Guardian Council’ became very agile just as it became in February 2004.  First, they barred all the women who put forward their paper to run for the position of president of Iran .  The members of the Council thought how silly it is that woman should run for the highest office.  After all, woman cannot be the supreme leader!  Mind you, the Iranian Mullahs are full of misogyny.  In this regard, the South Asian clerics are more liberal.  Both Pakistan and Bangladesh have elected woman to the highest office in land.  The ‘Guardian Council’ of Iran takes their job very seriously.  Lest they loosen the rule and let a woman become the president, the grand Ayatollah from Khom would turn in his grave.           

Look what have the council members done thus far.  The Council vetted all contestants for their moral values and support for the Islamic system of government.  They barred all the female candidates.  And they allowed only a handful of candidates who they liked.  The former president and poll favorite, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, four conservatives and a reformist make up the approved field of candidates.  The four hardliners are the former police chief, a former commander of revolutionary guards, the mayor of Tehran , and the former head of state radio and television.  According to BBC, Iran ’s former parliamentary speaker, Mehdi Karrubi remains on the list, but the correspondent say he had not been the reformists’ main contender.  The June 17 election is to replace outgoing President Mohammad Khatami, who cannot run for the third time as mandated by Iran ’s constitution.  

The action of the Council had brought condemnation both from Iran and outside.  In addition, the world knows by now that the ‘Guardian Council’ is the handiwork of Iran ’s ruling clergies to control the election process.  Therefore, to give a semblance of fair play, Iran ’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged a hard-line watchdog to reinstate two reformists barred from the June 17 presidential race after the largest pro-reform party said it would boycott the vote.  Ayatollah Khamenei who has the last word in all state matters but who rarely intervenes openly in political affairs could offer reformists a hope to retain the presidency held by pro-reform cleric Mohammad Khatami since 1997.  

The ‘Guardian Council’ and conservative clerics would like to see the chameleon candidate, Hashemi Rafsanjani, become the president.  They know that if a strong reformist candidate runs in the race, he may come out winner in the election.  Therefore, the best the ‘Guardian Council’ may have done is to block the strongest candidate from reformist party to enter the election.  That is what they have done in the first leg of the vetting process.  Rafsanjani is a colorful Mullah whose message of detente with the West and economic liberalization appeals to reformist supporters.  Therefore, it will be interesting watch the election result later in June 2005.  

Ayatollah Khamenei wrote a letter to the ‘Guardian Council’ urging them to include two more candidates both from reformist party so that “people from all political tendencies” may take part in the voting process.

The former Education Minister, Mastafa Moin, is an outspoken reformist who has promised to tackle human rights abuses if elected.  The other liberal candidate, Mehralizadeh, who is Vice President for Sport and was not considered a serious contender.  Mr. Moin’s disqualification by the ‘Guardian Council,’ a panel of 12 clerics and jurists with sweeping powers, drew angry protest from Iran ’s largest reformist party.  

Iran ’s clergy under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini had followed typical Sha’ria-based constitution for Iran .  Thus, they instituted a Shura or council calling it the ‘Guardian Council,” which has sweeping power.  This concept of Shura runs counter to democracy, which the clergies have hard time understanding.  Iran under clergies has put one foot to modern world and the other foot to sixth century world.  This experimentation is not going to work.  While the conservative Mullahs would like to build Iran patterned after Islamic Utopia, the young generation Iranians has other ideas.  They become very excited when one talks about western-style democracy.  However, the old guards of Mullahs who are in the catbird seat of power would like to efface any movement to usher in western-style democracy in Iran .  

Many reformist supporters have openly said that if Mr. Mastafa Moin were barred from participating in the presidential election, then it would be a sham election.  Iran ’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is a shrewd cleric.  He realized that if Mr. Mastafa Moin were to bar from taking part in the election, then Iran would earn the dubious distinction of the nation that had conducted a sham and dubious election.  Besides, Iran already had elected a reformist president in the last two elections.  The clergies have learned that if Iran has to flourish economically in the twenty first century as a pragmatic nation, then it needs reformist leader at the helm.   

In summary, Iran’s ‘Guardian Council’ that is perceived by clergies as purveyor of Sha’ria law has done it again by barring most reformist candidates in the upcoming presidential election slatted for June 17, 2005.  However, the supreme clergy, Ayatollah Khamenei, had intervened and urged the Council to allow two reformist candidates to participate in the election.  Iran is in no mood to abolish the vile ‘Guardian Council’ for the fear that the nation may veer towards modernity, which the Mullahs in Iran so detest.


Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans , USA







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