Iran’s supreme leader called on Iranians to make this month’s presidential election a “political epic” but poured cold water on the hopes of two prominent candidates who want their disqualification from the race overruled.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a “glorious presence at the ballot boxes,” adding: “A vote for any of the eight candidates is a vote of confidence in the Islamic Republic regime.”
He also appeared to defend the choices of the Guardian Council , a powerful vetting body which last month whittled a list of more than 600 contenders down to just eight candidates.
“In the Islamic Republic system, for anyone to enter the election the most important thing is abiding by the law, which says that some candidates can enter and some others cannot,” he said. “And the criteria [for entering the election] is clear in the law. And the people who apply these criteria [the Guardian Council] did their duty.”
The supreme leader was addressing a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters gathered here to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the death of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Nearly all of Iran’s most influential political figures were in attendance, including former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and presidential adviser Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, both of whom were disqualified from running in the election.
Khamenei has in the past overruled the decisions of the Guardian Council, allowing reformist candidates Mostafa Moin and Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh to run for the presidency in 2005 after they had been disqualified.
Supporters of Rafsanjani and Mashaei have publicly appealed to the supreme leader to use his constitutional power to again intervene.
But speaking at the shrine of the late Khomeini, Khamenei maintained an air of impartiality, reiterating that he had no favorite in a race he repeatedly said would have just “eight” candidates .
“If any foreign media say I chose this or that [candidate] they are wrong,” he said. “For me, there is no difference if any of these eight wins.”
“In the United States or the modern, capitalistic world, you can only enter the election if you are a member of two or three parties that are protected by a mafia of power and money. ... Anyone who followed the American election will believe me when I say that some people who were not under the protection of international Zionists and the capitalist web tried with all of their capabilities but could not enter the election,” he said.
“In our country candidates get equal time without spending a single penny [rial] for candidates to compete with each other and talk directly to the people for hours.”
In what appeared to be a jab at Rafsanjani and his supporters, Khamenei chastised political figures who “are using Imam Khomeini’s name or Imam Khomeini’s memories but do not agree with Imam Khomeini’s principles or Imam Khomeini’s road map.”
Khomeini’s daughter, Zahra Mostafavi, wrote an open letter to Khamenei criticizing the decision to disqualify Rafsanjani, saying the former president was a close confidant of her father. Others close to the Khomeini family have defended Rafsanjani and called for his disqualification to be overturned.Khamenei said Khomeini championed “unity and protecting the poor, not the aristocracy,” adding that the leader “was devoted to principles of fighting hegemony, Zionism, oppression and promoting equality of all nations in the world.”
Khamenei also appeared to caution candidates against repeating the mistakes of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Candidates should not make impossible promises. Speak in a way that if next year at this time you or other people listen to a recording of yourself, you won’t be ashamed,” he said. “Candidates must promise the people if they become president that they will not make marginal issues a focal point and will not allow members their team to make marginal issues a focal point.”