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Former Iranian president rebukes hardline clerics, signaling political comeback

Former Iranian president rebukes hardline clerics, signaling political comeback

A popular former president has resumed his attacks against hardline Iranian clerics threatening to disqualify reformists from upcoming elections, a move seen as signaling a high-profile political comeback.
In comments published Saturday, Mohammad Khatami, the president until 2005, was quoted as telling residents in the northwestern town of Tabriz that arbitrarily banning candidates was against Iran's constitution and Islam.
The remarks were the latest in a wave of criticism of the hardline bloc, which includes Khatami's successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"No one and no authority has the right to deprive an individual, who ... is loyal to the constitution and has not committed any crimes proved in court, of the right to elect or be elected," Khatami was quoted by several pro-reform newspapers as saying Thursday. "Such deprivation, under any pretext, is against the spirit of the constitution and Islam."
Khatami, who voiced similar criticism earlier this month, was referring to threats made by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the powerful head of the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional watchdog.
Jannati, a key ally of Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in early December that any candidate determined by the Guardian Council to be disloyal to the principles of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution would be barred from parliamentary elections in March.
The Guardian Council's 12 members include six clerics hand-picked by Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters and is commander in chief of the armed forces. Hardliners consider him to be answerable only to God.
In 2004, the council prohibited thousands of reformists from running in the elections, resulting in the hard-liners' takeover of the parliament.
Political analyst Leila Chamankhah said Khatami's repeated attacks against Iran's hardliners and his increasing public appearances signaled a vigorous re-entry into politics ahead of parliamentary elections in March.
"This is a new political comeback for Khatami after his departure from the presidency," she said. "He feels he has a responsibility to come to the support of reformers who fight for greater democracy and personal freedoms in Iran."
Khatami, who remains hugely popular in Iran, largely disappeared from the public spotlight after he stepped down as president. He has said he won't run in the March elections but has begun publicly supporting reformists who hope to retake control of the legislature from hardliners.
The former president won a landslide victory in 1997 on the promise of promoting political and social freedom. He was re-elected in 2001, and his stint in office saw a significant expansion of social freedoms.
Reformists are trying to form a grand coalition with independent groups in the hope of winning the upcoming elections. However, disqualification of prominent reformists could dash their hopes of retaking control of the parliament.
Calling hardliners like those on the Guardian Council "fossilized," Khatami said they were a major obstacle to Iran's progress.
"We have to be careful that our Islam is not confiscated by the fossilized because that is a dangerous Islam," Khatami was quoted as saying. "The fossilized are those who pretend to be sanctimonious, oppose progress, logic and people's sovereignty over their fate."


Updated : 2021-04-17 11:25 GMT+08:00