Iran elections: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backs list of presidential candidates

Country's supreme leader urges Iranians to vote despite calls for election boycott over Guardian Council's decisions

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during Friday prayers in Tehran September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/File Photo
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Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is backing the Guardian Council's disqualification of leading moderate and conservative candidates seeking to run in the presidential election in June.

The council, which vets candidates, approved seven of the 592 hopefuls in a list released this week.

Its decision leaves Iran's hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi as one of the favourites to replace President Hassan Rouhani, who has reached the limit of two consecutive terms.

Mr Rouhani joined hardliners and reformists in criticising the council's decision and urged Mr Khamenei to intervene and allow a wider range of candidates to be on the ballot.

But on Thursday Mr Khamenei told members of parliament that he "strongly supported the council's legal procedures".

"The honourable Guardian Council, in accordance with its duty, did what it had to do and what it deemed necessary to do and identified the candidates," he said.

His comments appeared to kill off any hopes for a review of the council's decisions. In the 2005 presidential election, he ordered the council to reinstate two candidates.

Those disqualified from running next month include Ali Larijani, a prominent moderate conservative who is a former parliament speaker and chief nuclear negotiator, reformist First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, an ally of Mr Rouhani, and Mr Rouhani's predecessor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

Mr Khamenei also addressed the prospect of low voter turnout.

"Those who promote not going to the polls are not sympathetic to the people," he said.

"Dear nation of Iran, elections are held on just one day, but the effect lasts for several years. Participate in the election."

There are calls for an election boycott from political activists, as well as supporters of Mr Ahmadinejad, who was making his first attempt to run again since his controversial re-election in 2009 that sparked widespread protests.

Mr Ahmadinejad's announcement that he would boycott the election was also addressed by Mr Khamenei.

"Someone who is compassionate does not forbid people from going to the polls," he said.