Tehran- Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Monday criticized the disqualification of reformist candidates by hard-liners from national elections later this month, deepening a dispute between the two factions.
The Guardians Council, a vetting body made up of preachers and jurists, excluded thousands of parliamentary hopefuls and four-fifths of the candidates for the body that will choose Iran’s next supreme leader.
The move was a setback to moderate President Hassan Rouhani and Rafsanjani, his ally who was president between 1989 and 1997.
Among those excluded was Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the Islamic Republic’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who has close ties to reformists.
“They disqualified the grandson of Imam Khomeini, who is the most similar person to his grandfather,” Rafsanjani said, according to ISNA news agency, at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of Khomeini’s return to Tehran from France during the 1979 revolution.
“Who decided you are qualified to judge the others? Who gave you the right to take all the guns, have all the Friday prayer platforms and run state television?” he added, referring to hard-liners.
Rafsanjani’s comments indirectly target Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and who appoints the head of state television, the Friday prayer leaders around the country and half of the members of the Guardians Council.
Rafsanjani, 78, was Friday prayer leader in Tehran before he was dismissed from the position when he backed the opposition movement whose protests were crushed after the last, disputed election in 2009.
The Guardians Council disqualified him from the next presidential election also.
Elections to the parliament, whose members are 290, and Assembly of Experts, whose members are 88, are due to take place on Feb. 26.
Hassan Khomeini, a cleric aged 43, said on Friday he would appeal being barred from running in the polls.