Ayatollah Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has responded to recent reformist demands for “free” elections, saying the elections in Iran have been consistently “free” ever since the Islamic Revolution.

ISNA reports that Ayatollah Khamenei said: “Those who keep making recommendations regarding elections must take care not to help the enemies. They should not keep saying the election must be free, Since the beginning of the Revolution, we have had 34 elections. Which of them was not free?”

Many critics of the Iranian government have spoken out against the supervisory role of the Guardian Council in determining the eligibility of candidates. The Guardian Council has been accused of bias in its handling of candidate applications.

In recent weeks, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of Iran’s Expediency Council, has made several references to the need to restore “balance to the country” though “free elections.” In the meantime, many conservative factions keep warning against the presence of dissenting voices in the election set for June 2013.

Reformists and even some conservative figures have called for the release of opposition leaders who have been under house arrest for close to two years for challenging the legitimacy of the 2009 election. The allegations of vote fraud caused widespread street protests.

Reformists, who were heavily sidelined after the 2009 election, have been testing the waters in recent months to evaluate the possibility of their return to the political arena.

Ayatollah Khamenei, while giving a public speech in Qom, said: “One of the plans of our enemies to prevent a glorious election is to divert the people’s attention with political, economic or security issues, but the Iranian people are too wise to fall for such deception.”

He added: “Those who enter the election arena should be able to bear its responsibilities, make sure they meet the eligibility criteria of the Guardian Council and must be committed to the constitution.”

Ayatollah Khamenei rejected the allegations of election fraud in 2009 as well as the calls for a recount. He sided with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and warned the public against continuing protests.

The street protests were put down harshly by government forces, and many protesters are currently in jail serving stiff sentences.