Following the disqualification of hundreds of would-be presidential candidates in Iran, including two top figures from the ballot, the United States slammed the Islamic Republic’s electoral body on Tuesday for “vague” decision-making.
“It appears that Iran’s unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified hundreds of potential candidates based on vague criteria,” State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in an emailed statement to AFP news agency.
“The Council narrowed the list of almost 700 potential candidates down to eight officials based solely on who the regime believes will represent its interests, rather than those of the Iranian people,” he told AFP in an email.“The lack of transparency makes it unlikely that the slate of candidates represents the will of the Iranian people , who should be given every opportunity to choose a president who best embodies their views.”
Among the disqualified candidates, Iran's electoral watchdog barred moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani  from standing in the June 14 presidential election and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a close but controversial aide to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Meanwhile, eight candidates won approval to stand -- five conservatives close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as two moderate conservatives and a reformist.
According to the unofficial news reports, among those approved for the June ballot are Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, prominent lawmaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf - all top Khamenei loyalists. Former chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei and a little known former minister have also reportedly been approved.
Of eight, only two of them are pro-reform figures: Former top nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani and former first vice president Mohammad Reza Aref.
Reformers now have the option of rallying behind Aref or Rowhani or boycott the polls altogether.