Tehran: The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, could be excluded from upcoming elections because he did not attend a qualification exam Tuesday.
Hassan Khomeini, 43, was not among 400 candidates for the Assembly of Experts who took the theology test in the holy city of Qom, one hour’s drive south of the capital Tehran.
The exam was organised by the Guardian Council, a powerful committee that vets candidates for the Assembly, a clerical group that will pick the country’s next supreme leader, and for parliament.
Elections to both will take place on February 26.
“If someone does not participate in the examination to test his level of theological knowledge, he will not have the requirements to be a candidate,” said Siamak Rahpeyk, a Guardian Council member.
“We informed the candidates via the media and through the official website of the Council” of the test, he said on state television.
A source close to Khomeini, who has never previously run for public office but is close to the reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, told the official IRNA news agency he had not received any “invitation or text message” to go to the exam.
“At the time of examination, he was giving a lecture” on theology, the source said.
According to Rahpeyk, 540 of 800 candidates who originally registered for the Assembly election were invited to take the test — including 12 women — but only 400 showed up.
The Assembly is responsible for monitoring the actions of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei, now 76, took over from the elder Khomeini, Iran’s first supreme leader, who died in 1989.
Though considered highly unlikely, the Assembly has the power to dismiss a supreme leader. It would also have the task of picking a successor should Khamenei die.
The Assembly currently has 86 clerics, but February’s vote will see 88 members elected to eight-year terms.
Incumbents in the Assembly and candidates who have previously passed the theology exams are not required to take the test again.
Those who had not taken religious studies were not invited to the exam and were automatically excluded, as the Assembly is entirely made up of clerics.
February’s elections to the Assembly are seen as vital as its new members may be in post when, given Khamenei’s age, his successor is appointed.
Interest in the parliamentary polls is also high, with a record 12,000 candidates registered. Both the Assembly and the Council are currently dominated by conservatives.
The February ballot is crucial for President Hassan Rouhani, who has faced vocal opposition from the current chamber, including on a nuclear deal with world powers.
A less hostile group of lawmakers could give him a greater chance of passing at least limited social reforms, which he championed in his successful 2013 election campaign.