Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi

A senior Iranian cleric has warned Iran’s Supreme Leader not to let prominent presidential candidates be disqualified.

In a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, Ayatollah Mohammad Sadegh Haeri Shirazi, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, says the Supreme Leader’s motto of “Political legend and maximum participation in the elections” will not be realized if the “top figures from each side” are not allowed to compete.

The senior cleric alludes to soccer games between Iran’s top teams, Persepolis and Esteghlal, saying that just as eliminating one of those teams results in a sharp drop in the number of viewers and spectators, “elimination of a top figure in the election” will have a similar effect.

The letter appears to refer to the speculation that top reformist candidate Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani has been disqualified from running. Many conservatives have called for Hashemi’s disqualification on the grounds that he supported the allegations of fraud in the last election and was linked to the mass protests that brought the country into deep political crisis.

The Guardian Council will announce its final list of approved candidates tomorrow, May 22.