TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The grandson of the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic has been barred from running for a top clerical body, his family said Tuesday, as the country prepares for crucial elections next month.
The decision to bar Hassan Khomeini, who has close ties to reformists, likely serves as pushback against anyone proposing changes to Iran's clerical government after the nuclear deal with world powers negotiated by the administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
Khomeini had planned to stand in the Assembly of Experts election, which will be held the same day as the Iran's parliamentary election in which moderates hope to make gains. The 86-member cleric body is elected by the public to eight-year terms.
The Assembly of Experts serves a function similar to that of the Vatican's College of Cardinals, and will someday have to pick a successor to the 76-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also can directly challenge the supreme leader's rule, something it has never done before.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei became the country's first supreme leader after leading Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
A final list of qualified nominees for the Assembly of Experts election is expected to be released on Feb. 16, just ahead of the Feb. 26 election for both the assembly and Iran's parliament.
But on Tuesday, Ahmad Khomeini, the son of 43-year-old Hassan Khomeini, made a post on what appears to be his Instagram account, saying his father was barred from the election by Iran's Guardian Council. The state-run IRNA news agency also reported about the Instagram post.
A caption on the post read: "Last night, it was clarified that the Guardian Council could not approved the qualifications of my father and they could not learn about his qualifications" based on the evidence they had. Hassan Khomeini apparently did not attend an exam for the Guardian Council, something his son said wasn't required of others running for the council.
"I think the reason is clear for all," the post read, without elaborating.
The Guardian Council, a 12-member body, is half selected by Iran's supreme leader and half by the country's judicial chief with parliament's approval.
The council holds veto power over Iran's parliament, as well as determines the eligibility of candidates for the assembly, the parliament and the presidency. It's widely considered to be a largely conservative force in the country's politics.
The Guardian Council earlier this month disqualified a number of reformist candidates for Iran's 290-seat parliament, far more than the hard-liners and conservative running. Many were disqualified because they were not seen to be sufficiently loyal to the ruling system, as defined by hard-line council members.
The barring of moderates and reformists is seen as hard-line tactic to limit Rouhani's moderate allies after the nuclear deal.
This story has been corrected to show that Hassan Khomeini planned to run for Iran's Assembly of Experts, which selects the country's next supreme leader, not the Guardian Council.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.