Iran elections: Khamenei wants parliament that will ‘stand up to world powers’

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In a shot at the Obama administration, Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on his countrymen to elect a parliament that will “stand up to world powers.”

Iranians will vote in two elections of Feb. 26, one for a new parliament and the other for the Assembly of Experts, a body that has the power to select the next supreme leader.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei meets with commanders and staff of the Iran Air Force in Teheran on Feb. 8.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with commanders  of the Iran Air Force in Teheran on Feb. 8.

“The nation will vote for a parliament that puts Iran’s dignity and independence first, and stands up to foreign powers whose influence on Iran has been removed,” Khamenei said on Feb. 24.

In September 2015, just months after Iran had completed a nuclear deal feverishly pushed by U.S. President Barack Obama, Khamenei called the U.S. “Big Satan”and said America wishes to “infiltrate and impose [its] will” on the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s parliament has 290 members. There are approximately 6,000 candidates on the Feb. 26 ballot.

Analysts say moderate President Hassan Rouhani needs an outcome in the Feb. 26 election that supports the policies he wants to implement if he is going to win re-election next year. Rouhani has called for a high turnout, even though half of the candidates, mostly moderates and reformists, were disqualified by a hard-line watchdog body, the Guardian Council.

With Khamenei, at age 76, in poor health, the ballot for the Assembly of Experts is also seen as vital to Iran’s moderates.

Rouhani on Feb. 24 denied accusations from hardliners that the candidates close to him were affiliated with Western powers, calling it an insult to the intelligence of Iranians.

“When I talked about a U.S. infiltration plot, it made some people in the country frustrated,” said Khamenei, who has final say on all major state policy in Iran.

Potential rapproachement with the West has alarmed Teheran’s hardliners, who have seen a flood of European trade and investment delegations arrive in the country to discuss possible deals after the lifting of international sanctions.

Since then, hard-line security officials have arrested dozens of artists, journalists and businessmen, including Iranians holding joint U.S. or British citizenship, as part of a crackdown on “Western infiltration”.