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Rouhani warns of the implications of the exclusion of candidates for the February elections on “democracy”

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned of threats to “democracy and national sovereignty” after the Guardian Council, which is dominated by conservative opponents, ruled out thousands of candidates, weeks before the legislative elections.

The moderate conservatives to whom Rouhani and their reformist allies were involved in a public debate with the Guardian Council over the exclusion of thousands of candidates, including 92 current MPs.

The council that oversees the Iranian elections indicates that it has prevented about 9,500 potential candidates from contesting the elections, equivalent to nearly two-thirds of the 14,500 candidates.

Rouhani, whose alliance fears losing his majority in the February 21 elections, said excluding the candidates risked appointments being made “away” from the polls.

“The biggest threat to democracy and national sovereignty is the day when the elections turn into mere formalities,” the website of the government quoted Rouhani as saying during a meeting with the conservatives. “I pray to God that this day not come.”

“Let’s reassure people and tell them that our system is not a one-party system,” he said.

In a clear reference to the hard-line conservatives, he said, “They should at least leave room for competition and participation.”

He called on the Iranians of all walks of life to vote “even if (…) there were deficiencies in the elections.”

“Sometimes, I may not want to vote for some reason, but at other times I may not have enough confidence to go to the polls. This is very dangerous,” he said.

The excluded candidates are allowed to appeal the decision before the elections.

The elections come in the wake of a difficult month spent by Iran, as it approached engaging in a war with the United States while it accidentally shot down a passenger plane.

A strike by a US drone in Iraq killed the General of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Soleimani, on January 3, and Iran responded five days later by launching a series of missiles targeting American soldiers stationed in Iraq.

Hours later, the Iranian air defenses, which were on alert, shot down a Ukrainian international passenger plane, killing 176 people, all on board.

The disaster sparked protests in Tehran and other cities, although they appeared to be smaller than the massive demonstrations the country witnessed in November, as a result of the authorities’ hike in fuel prices, which Amnesty International said killed at least 300 people.

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