Reports from Tehran indicate that former President Hassan Rouhani has been barred from re-election at the Assembly of Experts election to be held on 1 March.
The news still awaited confirmation by the Interior Ministry when Rouhani’s official account on X announced that he has been barred from running for the Assembly that is tasked with choosing the Islamic Republic’s next Supreme Leader.
The interior ministry and the Guardian Council, both in charge of vetting candidates, have rejected hundreds of non-hardliners for the March vote, repeating the same tactic as was employed in the 2020 parliamentary and the 2021 presidential elections. As a result, the outgoing parliament is controlled by ultraconservatives, who also dominate President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.
Meanwhile, moderate conservative websites such as Khabar Online, which speculated about options ahead of Rouhnai, and Nameh News, which splashed a headline saying, “The End of Rouhani,” rather quickly published the first analyses about the implications of this development and Rouhani’s choices and political future.
Now, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has effectively alienated all of Iran’s former Presidents. Rouhani, the man who was believed to be one of the candidates for succession as Supreme Leader is the last one to be jettisoned out of what many see as Khamenei’s sinking ship.
Having served as Iran’s security chief for many years, as a member and deputy speaker of parliament and a member of the Assembly of Experts for several rounds, and as Iran’s President for eight years, Rouhani’s disqualification sounds odd to anyone not familiar with the political and leadership dynamics in Iran.
Khamenei has not respected the loyalty of any of his obedient servants such as former Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, his close friends such as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and those he strongly endorsed such as former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Although current President Ebrahim Raisi has never challenged Khamenei, no one can be certain what awaits him at the end.
Guardian Council Spokesman Tahan Nazifhas implied that Rouhani might have to stand trial at the Special Court for Clerics for his involvement in irregularities at the Iranian stock market. However, he said that Rouhani’s final disqualification is awaiting the Interior Ministry’s confirmation. Meanwhile, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA, which was one of the first agencies to break the news of Rouhani’s disqualification, called the news “a rumor” in a report published Wednesday afternoon.
Hardline politician Javad Karimi Ghoddousi, a staunch critic of Rouhani, resorted to a religious story and alluded to Rouhani’s ambitions for rising to become the Islamic Republic’s next Supreme Leader.
Iranian journalist Siamak Rahmani wrote that Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Rouhani’s Justice Minister and the proprietor of Nameh News has been also disqualified by the Guardian Council. Meanwhile several social media users pointed out that the disqualification of Rouhani shows that the regime does not care about people’s participation in the elections.
Another user wrote that it appears that everyone else other than Rouhani himself knew beforehand that he could be disqualified. One said that this was even evident from the start of the second round of Rouhani’s presidency in 2017.
Talking about the next level in the Islamic Republic’s power hierarchy, Maziar Khosravi, the editor of Faraz Daily website wrote in a tweet: “As the scene is set now, one must recognize Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next Supreme Leader.”
On Rouhani’s future plans, Khabar Online opined that if the disqualification is finalized, Rouhani might follow a course like Rafsanjani and become a kingmaker for the moderate camp: A position less than glamorous considering what happened to Rafsanjani, who was pushed out of the center of power and eventually died in suspicious circumstances in a swimming pool. Nameh News wrote in an analysis entitled “The End of Rouhani”: “This is the final shot fired at Rouhani and the moderate camp.”