Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, says the elections should be open to everyone, even those who do not agree with the regime.

Ayatollah Khamenei

Ayatollah Khamenei

In a speech in Qom on Saturday January 9, Iran’s leader said: “Someone might not accept me, but elections do not belong to the leadership, they belong to Islamic Iran and the Islamic Republic.”

He added that inclusive participation in the elections “will strengthen the regime and secure its permanence, security, credibility and grandeur.”

The criteria used by the Guardian Council in determining the eligibility of candidates running in the elections has been a concern for years, and the body is accused of widely denying non-conservative candidates from running in the elections.

Reformists figures have been facing resistance from extremist groups all across the country to prevent them from reaching out to the public. The statement by Ayatollah Khamenei appears to send a signal that the coming elections may be more inclusive.

The list of candidates running for the Assembly of Experts and Parliament must pass the scrutiny of the Guardian Council, whose chief has been quoted as saying that faith in the leader and the system is a criterion that all candidates need to have demonstrated.