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May 24, 2013

Kerry: Choice of Iranian Presidential Candidates Denies Popular Will

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the disqualification of candidates in Iran's presidential election shows the country's religious leaders are interested only in reinforcing their own power rather than giving voters a choice of opposing views.

With Iran's disqualification of more moderate candidates, Kerry says Iran's Guardian Council showed no regard for popular will.

"I can't think of anybody in the world looking at Iran's election who wouldn't be amazed by a process by which an unelected guardian council which is unaccountable to the Iranian people has actually disqualified hundreds of candidates, potential candidates, according to very vague criteria which the Iranian people are not privileged to know or judge by," he said.

In vetting candidates for the June 14 vote, clerics and jurists this week rejected former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as well as a close aide to the outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose followers have clashed with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Kerry says the Guardian Council approved candidates "based solely on who represents the regime's interests obviously rather than those who might represent a different point of view among the Iranian people."

"That is hardly an election by standards which most people in most countries judge free, fair, open, accessible, accountable elections," he said. "The lack of transparency obviously makes it highly unlikely that that slate of candidates is either going to represent the broad will of the Iranian people or represent a change of any legitimate kind."

Speaking to reporters at the close of a trip to Israel, Kerry says there are "troubling signs" that the Iranian government is taking steps to slow down or cut off Internet access, diminishing the ability of voters to share information and exchange ideas in an election.

"So ultimately the Iranian people will be prevented not only from choosing someone who might have reflected their point of view but also taking part in a way that is essential to any kind of legitimate democracy," he said.

Asked about international efforts to limit Iran's nuclear program, Kerry says the United States continues to hope that Iran's leaders will come to the table with a serious offer in order to prove that their nuclear program, which they say is peaceful, is indeed peaceful.