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Why Khamenei Eliminated Hassan Rouhani from Upcoming Iranian Elections

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On January 24, the official website of Hassan Rouhani, former president of the Iranian regime, declared, “According to an announcement by one of the officials of the Guardian Council, the clerics of this council did not approve the eligibility of Hujjat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen Dr. Hassan Rouhani for candidacy in the upcoming elections for the sixth term of the Assembly of Experts. It is worth mentioning that this matter will also be officially declared through the Ministry of Interior.”

The clear disqualification of Rouhani underscores Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strong determination to purge and consolidate his rule in preparation for both domestic and international challenges on the horizon.

Over the past 40 years, Hassan Rouhani has consistently held the highest political and security positions within the government hierarchy of the Iranian regime. His record includes five terms in the parliament, three terms (24 years) as a member of the Assembly of Experts, 16 years as the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, and two terms (eight years) as President. These unique credentials make his disqualification more significant than the exclusion of Ali Larijani in the previous election spectacle.

Until the final rejection by the Guardian Council, Rouhani had significantly advocated for participating in the March elections, aligning himself with Khamenei’s demands and viewing the ballot box as the only option. However, under Khamenei’s directive, the Guardian Council rejected his eligibility for participation in the Assembly of Experts elections.

In an effort to temporarily mitigate the shock to the disgruntled factions and those who identify as reformists, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council announced, “The names of candidates for the Assembly of Experts elections have not yet been announced to the Ministry of Interior. The results of the evaluations will be submitted to the Ministry of Interior by the end of today.”

However, as soon as Rouhani caught wind of his disqualification, he resorted to threats and insinuations. In a defiant stance, he said, “If we were to conduct a poll among the people, inquire from them, undoubtedly the majority of society would say, ‘What does the election even mean? The time for holding elections is over.’”

On January 17, forewarning against his disqualification, Rouhani said, “This is the first time I see a ruling minority having a similar view, like the majority of the people. The ruling minority wants the elections to be quiet, so that no one goes to the ballot box, and this is what the majority of people want too. The counter-revolutionary forces also want it to be quiet. Each of them sees it from their own perspective. The ruling minority sees their survival in the quietness of the ballot box. If the ballot box becomes crowded, they will lose.”

On the other hand, officials close to Khamenei have threatened to use legal measures and prosecution against Rouhani. Nasrollah Pejmanfar, the head of the Parliament’s Article 90 Commission, stated, “We have numerous files regarding violations within Rouhani’s government in the Article 90 Commission, and our approach has been to pursue these cases through channels other than the media. However, suppose Rouhani and his team choose to continue their manipulation and create a hostile environment, in addition to legal proceedings. In that case, we will inform the public about the government’s previous misconduct through the media.”

The newspaper Kayhan, whose editorial guidelines are directed by the Supreme Leader’s office, also wrote, “If Mr. Rouhani had been impeached and tried for his incompetence and injustice regarding the fundamental rights of the nation, he wouldn’t have such a big mouth after two years.”

At first glance, Khamenei and his Friday prayer leaders’ pleas and begging for maximum voter turnout present a notable contradiction with the systematic exclusion of Rouhani and individuals complicit in the regime’s decades-long crimes. The question arises: what harm could Rouhani’s presence in the Assembly of Experts have caused for Khamenei, given that it already seems to be composed of obedient followers of the Supreme Leader?

Undoubtedly, faking social popularity is a desirable endeavor for Khamenei. However, he perceives a potentially destructive threat on the horizon, something that outweighs the significance of the electoral show.

Khamenei has navigated the uprisings of 2017, 2019, and 2022. He contends with a nationwide resistance that persistently works and strategizes for regime change, channeling the accumulated anger of the masses towards this objective. Simultaneously, he grapples with escalating regional and international crises. Faced with these challenges, Khamenei sees no alternative but to purify and consolidate his ranks in preparation for the storms ahead.

From this standpoint, a comprehensive examination of the Supreme Leader’s recent policies and actions in the past few months appears to make sense. These actions range from warmongering in the Middle East region to military interventions and missile launches from Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria to Yemen and the Red Sea, as well as the escalating rate of executions. Additionally, there are consecutive propaganda and farcical trials targeting members of the Iranian Resistance, along with the widespread deployment of morality police, among other measures, which may appear irrational and illogical at first glance.

Even after being disqualified, Rouhani urged the people not to boycott the elections. This security veteran seems to comprehend the strategic game Khamenei is playing and acknowledges that the regime has lost the luxury of taking risks.