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Hassan Khomeini, 43, a grandson of Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, talks to journalists after he registered for February's election of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the supreme leader, at Interior Ministry in Tehran December 18, 2015. REUTERS/TIMA
Hassan Khomeini, 43, a grandson of Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, talks to journalists after he registered for February’s election of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chooses the supreme leader, at Interior Ministry in Tehran December 18, 2015. REUTERS/TIMA

Four-fifths of electoral candidates to the body that will choose Iran’s next Supreme Leader have withdrawn or been disqualified, as the Islamic establishment keeps a tight hold on the electoral process.

The 12-member Guardian Council, a clerical body that oversees elections and legislation, approved just 166 of the 801 candidates for the Assembly of Experts, spokesman Siamak Rahpeik was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.

Among those excluded was Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the Islamic Republic’s first Supreme Leader, his son Ahmad said on Instagram. Khomeini, the first member of his family to stand in elections, is seen as politically moderate and is popular among Iran’s beleaguered reformists.

Elections to the 88-member Assembly of Experts fall on Feb. 26. The Assembly oversees the activities of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and will choose his successor if he dies or becomes incapacitated during its eight-year term.

Elections to the 290-seat parliament are being held on the same day. Last week, the Guardian Council disqualified more than 7,000 of the 12,000 parliamentary candidates, including almost all moderate and reformist candidates.

President Hassan Rouhani, who hopes his moderate allies can wrest control of the two assemblies from hardline factions, criticized the disqualification of parliamentary candidates and may also oppose the mass exclusion of Assembly of Experts candidates.

But Khamenei, who outranks the president, called for candidates to be strictly vetted, and Guardian Council Chairman Ahmad Jannati assured him the council would “not be affected by any pressure”.

The disqualified Assembly of Experts candidates have until Saturday to appeal the decisions, Rahpeik said.

REUTERS

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