Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati

Ahmad Jannati, the hardline cleric in charge of Iran’s Guardian Council, announced today that the Council “will not allow unsavoury individuals to attain the smallest position in the country,” regardless of their popularity.

Speaking in Esfahan, at the annual February 11 march celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, Jannati said: “The sedition of 2009 has been destroyed, but the leaders of that sedition, while having lost all credibility with the people, are sitting at home and dreaming that they have a place among the people and are making plans for a march on February 14.”

Iranian hardliners refer to the mass protests that followed the 2009 presidential elections as sedition. The competing presidential candidates who challenge Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in the election, MirHosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have applied to the ministry of interior for a permit to march on February 14 in support of the recent Arab revolts.

“The people have already marched today in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia,” Jannati said today. “I hope the sedition leaders come to their senses but I wonder if the people will ever accept them again or not.”

Observers have said that, through solidarity with the Arab movements, Mousavi and Karroubi are trying to reignite the mass protests that were violently crushed by the Islamic Republic in 2009. Several Iranian authorities have accused them of trying to create divisions among the people by proposing a date for the march separate from today’s anniversary celebrations.

The opposition leaders insist they are not seeking to topple the regime but to work toward popular reforms in the framework of the existing constitution. However, Ayatollah Jannati said: “The sedition leaders are still trying to weaken the power of Velayat Faqih (The system that gives governing powers to an expert cleric referred to as the Supreme Leader).”

Noting that Mousavi and Karroubi have not been arrested or charged so far, Jannati said: “There is no need to prosecute the leaders of sedition. The people have sentenced the leaders of sedition by their presence in the arena.”

Jannati, whose Guardian Council is in charge of approving candidates and supervising the elections, touched on next year’s parliamentary elections, saying: “A group of unsavoury individuals, who have separated themselves from the path of the people, are sitting on the sides plotting, and thinking that they can occupy parliamentary seats and cheat the Guardian Council.”

Iranian reformists have always spoken out against the Guardian Council’s arbitrary rejection of reformist candidates. Most recently, Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s former president and a top reformist leader, said he and other reformists will only participate in the elections if the government guarantees complete transparency in the voting process.

Jannati mocked Khatami by saying there was no need for reformists to participate in the elections at all.

The Iranian establishment denies there is any popular support for the reformists, even thought three million people were said to have joined street demonstrations in 2009 to protest alleged vote fraud.

Opposition leaders maintain that the Guardian Council has been violating articles of the Iranian constitution by restricting the elections to conservative candidates.