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With outsiders purged, Iran hard-liners set to settle Khamenei succession

Former President Hassan Rouhani has attacked the ruling hard-liners for purging him and other moderates from a key clerical body that will be responsible for picking Khamenei's successor.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei arrives to cast his ballot during the parliamentary runoff elections in Tehran on May 10, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

TEHRAN — The question of who will succeed Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been central to Iran's political landscape in recent years. 

Yet, due to its sensitive nature, the debate has rarely been brought to the public sphere, discussed merely inside corridors of power, where Khamenei's staunch loyalists are believed to be setting the stage so the next leader is unquestionably his pick.

This week, former moderate President Hassan Rouhani, now effectively sidelined from the country's decision-making processes, brought the issue to the fore in a public letter protesting his disqualification from the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body in charge of appointing the next supreme leader. 

Rouhani's strongly worded letter, the fourth in a series, was published in response to the electoral vetting body, the Guardian Council, which found him unfit to participate in the election, which ultimately had record-low turnout. Since then, the ex-president has been loudly protesting his "politically motivated" disqualification and requesting explanations from the supervisory body. 

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