Iran Bars Two Contenders From Presidential Race

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. There's a presidential election in Iran next month. It's definitely one to pay attention to given how prominent Iran is on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. And today, a very big development in the run up to that vote, two very high profile candidates were barred from running by Iran's supreme religious authorities. One is the moderate, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, he could have been a popular vote getter. The other is a former chief of staff for current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Helping to sort through all of this is Iranian journalist Shirin Jafaari. She says the barring of Ahmadinejad's handpicked successor did not surprise most Iranians.

Shirin Jafaari: Rahim Mashai, he was somebody very close to Ahmadinejad, and he was not, obviously, in the good books of the Supreme Leader, and to some degree it was something that people could see, him being disqualified. But the bigger surprise was Rafsanjani. Iranians and the Imam watchers were holding their breath to see who gets qualified, and this is a, I think this is a key moment in the Islamic republic's history.

Werman: Right. So Rahim Mashai, former chief of staff for Ahmadinejad, a former president, Rafsanjani, both barred. Have you heard anything from Tehran about how people have reacted to this?

Jafaari: You know, this is coming out after the 2009 election, which we know what happened.

Werman: Right, 2009 elections of course sent people in mobs into the street. They were angry with the results. What do you think this decision tells us about where power lies in Iran today?

Jafaari: This shows that this election is going to be a race between candidates that are carefully selected, who are, probably most of them, loyalists to the regime, and not people who are from different factions.

Werman: I mean, a few days ago Shirin you told us that the candidates would be vetted to see if they could be legitimate candidates, if they qualify. I mean a former president and a current chief of staff for the current president, if they don't qualify, who does?

Jafaari: Exactly. I think this is very important because Rafsanjani, he was considered one of the pillars of the Islamic revolution, and now, him being out of the race, Hamany is putting his foot down here. And it shows that it's a race between the two factions of the Islamic Republic, and this goes back in the history. Rafsanjani was somebody who's supposed to be the supreme leader, and he gave power to Hamany instead and he became the president. Now Hamany and Rafsanjani has been, you know, racing each other and rivaling each other for power over the years, and right now it shows that Hamany is somehow winning the race.

Werman: So Shirin, is this a setup for more tumult next month?

Jafaari: This is something that we don't know yet because Rafsanjani not being in the game, I'm already hearing people saying, well, you know, we are not going to vote this year. What is the point of voting when everybody is carefully selected and this is not a healthy race? So we don't know, maybe a lot of people would opt out of voting, and others who would vote, you know, there's not a lot of choice right now.

Werman: Iranian journalist Shirin Jafaari. She was telling us about the decision today by Iran's electoral watchdog to bar two key candidates from standing in the country's presidential race next month. Thank you, Shirin.

Jafaari: Thank you, Marco.

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