January 28, 2020
President Hassan Rouhani declared on Tuesday that Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections in February will have an effect on regional and international politics.
In a speech broadcast live on state TV, he also claimed that the current US government is the worst in the history of America.
On Monday, Rouhani stressed Iranians should not allow US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” approach to harm national unity ahead of the elections, while lashing out at hardliners over mass disqualification of candidates.
Iran’s clerical rulers face challenges in keeping the economy afloat under increasingly tough US sanctions imposed by Washington after it withdrew in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Vital oil exports have been slashed.
“We should not let Trump succeed in creating gaps between the establishment and people … We should remain united … Don’t turn your back on (Feb. 21) elections. Let’s have a high turn out,” said Rouhani.
Iran’s hardline Guardians Council, which vets all election candidates, has disqualified about 9,000 of the 14,000 who registered to run in the elections. Moderates say in most cities they have no candidates to enter the race.
“This parliamentary election is a very important election … I have written letters to relevant authorities to resolve the issue of disqualifications,” said Rouhani.
“You (hardliners) claim that you will win the election. That is fine, but just let the election be a competitive one.”
Since Iran’s 1979 revolution, its rulers have swept aside challenges to their grip on power. But the gap between them and the people has widened since last year, when hundreds were killed in anti-government protests. Iran has yet to announce the death toll and rejects figures published by human rights organizations.
Tehran also risks a legitimacy crisis amid mounting public fury and international criticism over the belated admission of blame by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards for shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane by mistake.
Angry Iranians took to streets to protest against the delayed admission by the Guards.
The distrust between the rulers and the ruled, combined with economic hardship, bodes ill for the parliamentary vote in February, when Iran’s rulers typically seek a high turnout to show their legitimacy, even if the outcome will not change any major policy.