TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has blasted the Islamic Republic's clerical rulers, declaring it impossible for them to do a worse job running the country, an Iranian pro-reform website reported Wednesday.
The remarks carried by Jaheshnews.ir come days after a constitutional watchdog disqualified him from running in June 14 presidential elections. They are unusually strongly worded for Rafsanjani, considered a centrist who generally defers to the supremacy of the ruling clerics.
The comments are among Rafsanjani's harshest criticisms of the Islamic Republic's rulers since he condemned a crackdown on protests that followed 2009 elections. Because of his stance then, Rafsanjani's 2013 candidacy revitalized reformist hopes.
Rafsanjani has not made any direct public statements since his Tuesday disqualification. The quote was not carried on his official website, and the report could not independently verified.
"I think it is not possible to run the country worse than this," he was quoted as saying.
He singled out the Guardian Council, the watchdog dominated by clerical hardliners that disqualified him, for condemnation.
"Wisdom suggests letting him_Rafsanjani_run," he said. "You should have let people come to the ballots hopefully. They do not know what they are doing."
Rafsanjani said the Council's decision help foreign enemies of Iran. Iranian leaders are believed to want a high turnout in elections to show that the Islamic Republic is still politically strong.
The ex-president's campaign manager has said that he will not protest the decision. But in the remarks carried by Jaheshnews.ir, Rafsanjani said he hoped the Council would reconsider.
"I am still hopeful. There is a hope that they take a serious decision and give another chance to us and the people," said Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani is a founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought the clerics to power. He was the closest confident of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the revolution.
His rejection deals a demoralizing blow to pro-reform groups and boosts the chances of a candidate loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei winning the election.
Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the late founder of the Islamic Republic who has joined the reform movement, called Rafsanjani's disqualification "unbelievable." But in a letter published in several pro-reform newspapers, it said it also transformed Rafsanjani into a symbol of "hope" for the movement.
Rafsanjani also remarked ruefully on the country's international isolation, linked to sanctions over its disputed nuclear program. The West accuses Iran of trying to develop weapons technology, a charge Iran disputes.
He said that prior to the Iranian revolution, he once drove his car across Europe without hassle. But now, he said, Iranian travelers fear to travel because of the disrespect they will encounter.
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