Two important figures in Iranian politics including the former president, Akbar Hachemi Rafsanjani, have been barred from running in next month’s presidential election.
In a blow to potential reformists, the list of eight cleared to stand by the electoral watchdog contains only candidates who are considered hardline conservatives.
Also excluded by the Guardian Council is President Ahmadinejad’s former chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. He had already been described as a “deviant” by conservative clerics who suspect him of wanting to curb their influence.
Rafsanjani – who was president between 1989 and 1997 – had been sidelined from power over tacit support for reformers at the last presidential election in 2009, which brought street protests amid claims of fraud.
Last week around 100 conservative deputies in parliament launched a petition seeking to bar Rafsanjani and Mashaei from this year’s race.
A spokesman for the Guardian Council said on Monday that it would bar physically feeble candidates, a comment seen by many as a hint that it could disqualify Rafsanjani.
Among the eight candidates retained on the shortlist are Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani.
The Guardian Council’s decision means the next president looks set to be loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.