Leaders of Iran's reformist parties criticized the country’s hardliner Guardian Council for disqualifying many well-known reformist candidates from the upcoming February 21 parliamentary elections.
Guardian Council Spokesperson Abbas Ali Kadkhodai insisted that some 90 out of the 290 MPs cannot run in upcoming elections.
This is a dramatic change compared with the previous round of polls in 2016 when all of the 30 MPs from Tehran were on the reformists’ lists and reform minded candidates also won in other major cities such as Mashad and Isfahan.
The Guardian Council has rejected appeals by President Hassan Rouhani and Majles Speaker Ali Larijani to reconsider the vetting.
The Council has accused both leaders of "not being well-informed" about the affairs of the state.
Last week, Rouhani criticized it for disqualifying reformist and moderate candidates saying that "all of those whose qualifications are endorsed by the Guardian Council come from the same faction: the hardliners."
Rouhani’s pressuring of the Council came after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stressed in the last Friday sermon the necessity of high turnout in the elections, at a time Iran is subject to unprecedented economic and political pressure from the United States.
Likewise, at the open session of the Majles on Monday Larijani questioned the validity of vetting by the Guardian Council saying that he was surprised to see current and former MPs being disqualified on charges of financial and ethical corruption.
Some candidates said the Council has disqualified all the lawmakers who had supported the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The claim about supporting the Rouhani administration or the JCPOA leading to candidates' disqualifications was made by Rouhani's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.