Khomeini Grandson Barred From Iran Poll in Blow to Reformers

Iran has disqualified a grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, from running in next month’s race for the assembly that chooses the country’s next supreme leader.

The Guardian Council, which vets candidates for elections, submitted the list of approved contestants to the Interior Ministry late Monday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, citing Deputy Interior Minister Hossein-Ali Amiri. Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was among those authorized to run for the Assembly of Experts, the Iranian Labour News Agency said.

“Last night it was confirmed that the Guardian Council was unable to establish dad’s scientific qualifications,” Hassan Khomeini’s son, Ahmad Khomeini, wrote on an Instagram post. Would-be candidates barred from vying for the 88-member council can appeal between Jan. 28-30, IRNA said.

Some senior clerics consider his religious qualifications inadequate, and noted the 43-year-old cleric was younger than the rest of the assembly, said Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor of Middle Eastern politics who studies Iran at Qatar University in Doha.

Reformist Links

At the same time, it’s “hard to deny his links to the reformist camp and the fact that he has criticized some of the dynamics in Iranian politics,” he said. “All this together can be considered against him in the process of nomination.”

The younger Khomeini is perceived as ideologically close to politicians who advocate greater personal liberties and increased engagement with the outside world. His Instagram account shows him photographed alongside moderate President Hassan Rouhani and reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami, who has been forced to the margins of politics by Iranian hardliners and whose name and image are banned from Iranian media.

The assembly, which is elected every eight years, is the top religious body in Iran. It selected the current supreme leader and ultimate authority on all affairs of state, the 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after Khomeini’s death in 1989.

In December, the influential Rafsanjani told the Iranian Labour News Agency that the assembly had set up a panel to vet possible successors to Khamenei.

Khomeini is popular enough to have won a seat in the assembly, a position that would have allowed him to play a role in Iran’s future, Zweiri said.

“Having him in the assembly is seen as dangerous to some in the religious conservative circle close to the current supreme leader” who have a more traditional outlook for the establishment, he said.

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