In the extensive interview with AP, Constitutional Council’s Spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei expounded on various issues surrounding the upcoming presidential election in Iran.
Asked by the AP reporter about the election turnout, Kadkhodaei, as declared in all previous interviews, reiterated the importance of a high turnout of voters and expressed hope that a large number of voters would take part in the upcoming election.
“Every country expects to see high turnout in the elections. High turnout is always a public, social and political expectation. But from the judicial and legal viewpoint, this is what the law stipulates, as even a low turnout would not pose any judicial and legal problem. However, we hope that people of Iran, who are always concerned for the fate of the country, would go to the ballot boxes and we’d witness a good turnout,” the spokesman said.
The AP published only an excerpt of that part of the interview, causing a misunderstanding that even misled a number of Iranian media outlets.
Moreover, while the Constitutional Council’s spokesman had expounded on various issues for about 20 minutes in the conversation with the AP reporter, The Associated Press has acted unprofessionally, extracted only parts of the explanations, distorted some paragraphs, and published comments that contradict the general spirit of the interview.
Another unprofessional measure by the AP that has caused a misinterpretation of the interview was that the news agency has published only a few phrases from the whole remarks made by the Constitutional Council’s spokesman and has interpreted those comments selectively, which have resulted in an untrue explanation of the spokesperson’s comments.
In order to enlighten the public opinion about the interview, the Constitutional Council’s Information Center releases its full text, which is as follows:
*Details of the process of vetting the candidates
Reporter: Please offer a brief explanation of the mechanism for vetting the electoral candidates at the Constitutional Council.
Kadkhodaei: In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful. I welcome you and your colleagues. The Constitutional Council has a single voting system with regard to the measures submitted by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament). A different vote from the Council would happen only at the time of interpretation of the Constitution, which would require a vote of three-fourths of the members, meaning that nine of the 12 members of the Constitutional Council must vote for it.
But in the other cases, the majority vote will be the criterion. For example, it there is a vote on confirming the qualification of individuals, every individual will have to win seven out of 12 votes. If there is a vote on non-conformity between the measures and the Constitution, or the so-called conflict, nine out of the 12 votes will be needed.
But another aspect of your question might be how the process of vetting the candidates is carried out by the Council. It should be noted that meeting the qualification requirements is known as a condition when it comes to the presidential election. Therefore, there is no talk of rejection of qualifications -as what happens in the parliamentary elections.
As a result, the Constitutional Council vets the records of the individuals who have registered and then notifies the Ministry of Interior that a given number of people have met the requirements and can take part in the electoral campaigns.
*Every one of the individuals who has been qualified has won seven votes or more
*The votes of Faqihs (Islamic jurists) of the Constitutional Council in the vetting process have the same effect as those of the jurists
Reporter: If five Faqihs of the Constitutional Council vote against an individual, will this affect the votes of other members?
Kadkhodaei: No, that’s not true. When religious measures are mooted, the votes of Faqihs would be the criterion. But in the other cases, the votes of Faqihs and the jurists will be of equal value. For instance, as you mentioned, if five Faqihs cast negative votes in the vetting process, then a positive vote from one of them will add to the votes of six jurists, making a total of seven positive votes and resulting in the qualification of that candidate.
*The number of the electoral candidates does not increase
Reporter: The documents submitted by around 40 people who have registered for the presidential election have been deemed to be complete. Has the number of those individuals risen?
Kadkhodaei: No. Because the Constitutional Council has made it clear for the Ministry of Interior in its measure that the applicants must complete their documents at the time of registration. Therefore, there is not a ‘completion of documents stage’ after the registration. Thus, the documents of around 40 persons are complete, which have entered the process of assessment of qualifications. The first meeting on the evaluation of their qualifications has been also held. The next meetings will be held gradually.
*The Constitutional Council cooperates on a rise in the voter turnout
Reporter: Iran’s Leader has emphasized the importance of greater participation of people in the elections. What role does the Constitutional Council play in this regard?
Kadkhodaei: First, it should be noted that according to the surveys conducted by the governmental organizations, the Constitutional Council’s role in the turnout is very small. However, all of us in all sectors are duty bound to contribute to the turnout as much as possible.
*The number of candidates would not affect a rise in the turnout
Reporter: Is this true that a higher number of the candidates will increase the turnout?
Kadkhodaei: A diversity of the electoral candidates might result in such situation. But I don’t believe that the number of candidates would have an impact. For example, there had been two electoral candidates in the early years after the Revolution. There have been also eight to 10 candidates in some (presidential) elections. Thus, the number of individuals would not have so much effect on the turnout.
However, the presence of people with various orientations could possibly prepare the ground for higher turnout. The Constitutional Council’s procedure has been also such that all strata and ideological groups have been represented in the previous rounds of elections, and it has also expressed its views.
*The criticisms and protests from the individuals have no impact on the vetting process
Reporter: There have been reports that the dossiers of a number of the electoral candidates have been basically dismissed because of the stances they have adopted or their previous records. What is your view on this?
Kadkhodaei: No, that’s not true at all. You yourself are inside the country. Such comments, criticisms and protests are expressed outspokenly. The Constitutional Council would never take any action in the vetting process only because of the verbal protest and criticism.
*The public expects that the electoral candidates will take the national interests into account
Reporter: You have been involved in the vetting process for years. How will the Constitutional Council behave if an electoral candidate adopts stances in the campaigns or the debates that are in contradiction to his previous stances?
Kadkhodaei: I can tell you that it takes no action. Because, as it has happened in the past elections, you can see that the electoral candidates in the previous round expressed comments in their speeches and debates that dreadfully violated the norms, but the Constitutional Council did not take any action.
Anyway, that’s the time of campaigns at that juncture, and the candidates feel about announcing comments to attract the voters. But the public expects that if somebody is going to take the post of president, he must consider the national interests from now and the observation of the national interests should be among his priorities.
*No matter how the turnout is, it won't cause a problem in the process of election
Reporter: Some polls have claimed that some 40 percent of voters, more or less, will take part in the upcoming election. You have been directly involved in the elections in recent years. What is your expectation of the turnout in the upcoming election?
Kadkhodaei: Of course every country expects to see high turnout in the elections. High turnout is always a public, social and political expectation. But from the judicial and legal viewpoint, this is what the law stipulates, as even a low turnout would not pose any judicial and legal problem. However, we hope that people of Iran, who are always concerned for the fate of the country, would go to the ballot boxes and we’d witness a good turnout.
*The turnout in the presidential elections has been always higher than in the other elections
Reporter: Do you predict a higher turnout than in the previous election?
Kadkhodaei: I cannot make a good guess now. We do not have many opinion poll instruments in the Constitutional Council. We use the surveys conducted by the other organizations. The previous trends indicate that the turnout in the presidential elections have been usually higher than in the parliamentary elections.
*The presidential election affects the other concurrent elections
Reporter: Does the concurrence of the presidential and the city council elections have an impact on the turnout?
Kadkhodaei: No. Several rounds of presidential election in the past have been held simultaneously with the councils’ elections, and the Assembly of Experts with the parliamentary elections. There has not been a very tangible effect in the past several rounds, while the presidential election has an impact on the elections held simultaneously with it.
*The Constitutional Council cannot guarantee the future of the elected president
Reporter: It seems that the Constitutional Council members are critical of the performance and comments of the incumbent president, although he had been qualified by the Constitutional Council. Why do the Council members reach this point?
Kadkhodaei: Maybe an example would make this issue more easily acceptable to the readers of this interview living abroad. When the president of the United States appoints the Supreme Court’s judges, they will not necessarily follow the path or the stances of the president who has appointed them.
On the other hand, humans are evolving anyway. You may appoint an individual to a post, while you are confident at present that he or she agrees with you, stands with you, and has clear plans, but after a period of time following assumption of the post, that person may forget (the responsibilities) and get out of the course that you had presumed.
This is quite normal in all posts, whether the person is appointed or elected.
The Constitutional Council considers minimum requirements under the law in the vetting process, and it can evaluate and declare the qualifications on that basis.
Naturally, the Constitutional Council cannot guarantee the future of the person who is elected. Such issue is much more tangible in the parliamentary elections. A Parliament member who is elected after being qualified by the Constitutional Council may commit violations during four years. The Constitutional Council will naturally not confirm that person’s qualification for the next term.
This is a natural issue that might take place at any post and position. The Constitutional Council can also carry out an evaluation with the minimum conditions stated by the law, as there is no other way.
*The process of working on the files of the women who have registered is going on legally
Reporter: Have women registered to run in this round of the presidential election?
Kadkhodaei: Around 40 persons have registered.
Reporter: Do the dossiers of those (women) who have registered basically reach the vetting process?
Kadkhodaei: Yes. Their dossiers are categorized and submitted to the Constitutional Council members, and they will express their views.
Reporter: Has there been any change compared to the previous rounds?
Kadkhodaei: No. There has not been any specific change, because there is no legal prohibition on the registration of women in the elections. The Constitutional Council deals with their dossiers like the other ones.
*The Constitutional Council is bound by the law to announce the names of the qualified persons
Reporter: In order for the elections to be held consistently, how many candidates do you think will be qualified? For example, will those 40 persons be qualified if there is no problem with their competence?
Kadkhodaei: Yes, it will have to happen. Because the law has not imposed limitations on us. As a result, when there is no limitation in this regard, if there are even 40 persons with full qualifications, the Constitutional Council will have to declare it. However, such situation has not happened in practice throughout the elections.
The process of confirming the qualification of candidates for the mid-term elections has been over
Reporter: A number of applicants have registered for the mid-term parliamentary elections. Is there enough time to vet those candidates?
Kadkhodaei: Since they are few in number, there will be electoral contest for the parliamentary seats apparently in six or seven districts. Although around 900 persons have registered, the process of qualifying them has been over and the Constitutional Council is currently working on the objections and protests.
Therefore, there has not been much trouble in comparison with the main parliamentary elections for which 16,000 individuals had registered.
*Efficiency is a main characteristic in the election of the next Iranian president
Reporter: What do you think is the next Iranian president’s most important plan for getting Iran out of the sanctions and economic problems?
Kadkhodaei: If we refer to the Article 115 of the Constitution, I believe the drafter of the Constitution has considered the conditions very precisely. The phrases such as political personalities and people with managerial characteristics and skillfulness have defined the whole qualities of an individual. Therefore, that individual (running for president) must be beyond an ordinary person in the political and religious spheres, and have the necessary capability to run the country on a large scale.
However, whether or not the individuals who have applied (for presidential candidacy) have truly such capability is another issue.
The Leader of the Revolution has also emphasized in his remarks recently that they (candidates) should avoid deceptive statements and be capable.
So I think that efficiency is a very important necessity for the election of a president who would be able to settle the country’s problems.
*The key to the settlement of the JCPOA problem is at the hands of Europeans
Reporter: Let me ask a question outside the context of the elections. The negotiations between Iran and the European countries are underway in Vienna. No upbeat report has come out so far. How will Iran react if such situation continues?
Kadkhodaei: Of course the Foreign Ministry of Iran should adopt stances on this issue. I cannot make comments on this field. But considering what the Leader of the Establishment has determined in this regard -as Iran has once faced the violation of the JCPOA by the US and the European countries have also failed to help Iran- I believe that the European states must provide a firm and acceptable guarantee for the resolution of this problem. The key to that problem is also at the hands of the Western countries. If they manage to fulfill their commitments genuinely and accurately, there has never been any problem on part of Iran.
*Biden’s administration has not been any different from that of Trump in dealing with Iran so far
Reporter: What is your evaluation of the Biden administration’s action on the JCPOA and the nuclear commitments as of now?
Kadkhodaei: No specific difference has been noticed yet.
*Iran expects the US administration to return to the initial agreements and fulfill its commitments
Reporter: What should the Biden administration do for Iran?
Kadkhodaei: According to what has been announced by the Leader of the Establishment, which is also a rational approach, the US is expected to return to the initial agreements and carry out what has been agreed on.
Reporter: Thank you for your time.
Kadkhodaei: I wish you success, and I hope you will give good reports from Iran on June 18.