Iranians must have 'right to choose' at the polls: Rouhani

TEHERAN: Iranians must have the right to choose between different political movements, the president said on Sunday, as the controversy over the disqualification of thousands of candidates in the next polls increases.

Speaking in the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the annual celebrations of 1979, Rouhani, a moderate conservative, praised the political heritage of the founder of Islam.

The imam (Khomeini) insisted on the fact that people should participate in all elections and have the right to choose, Rouhani said during the speech, broadcast on state television.

Who prevents people from choosing, and does not allow them to choose between different (political) trends, and who discourages people from going to the polls, is certainly far from the magnet's approach, he added, surrounded by members of the government.

The controversy has been furious for the past two weeks, facing the coalition that supports the Rouhani government against the Guardian Council, which oversees I ran Elections and is dominated by ultraconservatives.

The council says it has banned some 9,500 potential candidates from running for the legislative elections on February 21, almost two-thirds of the 14,500 candidates, including 92 parliamentarians on duty for all political trends.

Those who are barred are allowed to appeal before the election. Paying homage the "father of republicanism in I ran ", Rouhani said Khomeini had "refused" to establish a "caliphate" and instead "chose the republic" after the victory of the revolution against the shah's rule.

The US-backed sha government fell on February 11, 1979, 10 days after Khomeini's triumphant return from exile.

Rouhani made reference to the failed constitutional revolution in 1905 - the first attempt to establish democracy in I ran - with the restoration of an absolute monarchy some years later.

He warned that the same could happen to the Islamic Republic if the elections became a mere formality, with weak participation.

Since mid-January, the president has repeatedly tried to mobilize the electorate, and several analysts predict that his alliance of moderates and reformers will be beaten.

Last week, Rouhani warned of threats to democracy and national sovereignty of the Islamic Republic after the disqualification of candidates.