Reuters is reporting an important story on the reinstatement of over a thousand candidates for the March 14th Iranian parliamentary elections who were initially struck from the lists by government committees:
Over 2,000 registered candidates out of 7,200 were initially barred by government committees. Moderate politicians, including former president Mohammad Khatami and some of Ahmadinejad’s backers, have complained over the mass disqualifications.
However, the conservative-run Guardian Council, which has stopped hundreds of reformists running in past votes, has now reinstated more than 1,000 hopefuls to run for parliament.
Potential candidates in Iran face a vetting process. Those who pass the filter of government committees, have to be approved by the council.
The council has the authority to reinstate those who were initially rejected or bar more hopefuls based on criteria such as loyalty to the Islamic system.
It was not clear how many moderate candidates were among those reinstated, but reformists accuse the council of not reinstating leading moderate hopefuls.
The expected challenge to Ahmadinejad and the hardliners by the Khatami-Rafsanjani alliance, and joined to some extent by Mehdi Karroubi, could hang in the balance depending on how many from this reformist camp are actually eligible to compete. Before these reinstatements, only 25% of their slate was eligible. Khatami and Rafsanjani planned to appeal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei before the final lists are released on March 5th. Should there be sizeable reinstatements of reformists by the Council, it might signal Khameini is moving to reign in Ahmadinejad. After all the Guardian Council is composed of twelve jurists selected by the Supreme Leader — six directly and six indirectly.
But even if this were to happen, Ahmadinejad has proven politically resourceful in the past. After two successive blows in December of 2006 with the loss of the Assembly of Experts elections and the first round of UN sanctions, and the early whispers of a powerful Khatami-Rafsanjani alliance, Ahmadinejad was reeling. But he punched right back by almost provoking an international confrontation with the IRGC’s seizure of British sailors in March of 2007.
Ahmadinejad thrives on controversies that draw the ire of the international community but give him domestic political capital by thumbing his nose at the U.S., also allowing him to evade responsibility for the economic blunders of his administration. So if the reformists received license to effectively challenge him and his cohorts in the parliamentary elections, he might have an incentive to manufacture yet another incident.