Dubai: Four-fifths of candidates for the body that will choose Iran's next Supreme Leader have withdrawn or been disqualified including a grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini.
The 12-member Guardian Council, a clerical body that oversees elections and legislation, approved just 166 of the 801 candidates for the Assembly of Experts, electoral commission spokesman Siamak Rahpeik was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.
Among those excluded was Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the Islamic Republic's first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, his son Ahmad said on Instagram. Hassan Khomeini, the first member of his family to stand in elections, is seen as politically moderate and is popular among Iran's reformists.
Elections to the 88-member Assembly of Experts fall on February 26. The Assembly oversees the activities of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and will choose his successor.
Elections to the 290-seat parliament are being held on the same day. Last week, the Guardian Council disqualified more than 7,000 of the 12,000 parliamentary candidates.
President Hassan Rouhani criticised the disqualification of parliamentary candidates and may also oppose the mass exclusion of Assembly of Experts candidates.
But Khamenei called for candidates to be strictly vetted, and Guardian Council Chairman Ahmad Jannati assured him the council would "not be affected by any pressure".
The Guardian Council can disqualify candidates on a diverse range of technical and ideological grounds including gender, level of education, and commitment to religion and the constitution.
Ahmad Khomeini said his father, a 43-year-old mid-ranking cleric, had been disqualified on the grounds of his religious credentials despite the testimony of dozens of senior religious figures. Hassan Khomeini said he would issue a response in the coming days.
Khamenei initially approved Khomeini's candidacy, but warned him not to damage the family name.
Hassan Khomeini formed an informal alliance of political moderates with Rouhani and former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rouhani and Rafsanjani are also candidates for the Assembly of Experts and were approved by the Guardian Council.
Rafsanjani was ousted as the Assembly's chairman last year in favour of Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a hardliner.
The disqualified Assembly of Experts candidates have until Saturday to appeal the decisions.