Iran's Guardians Council will review its decision to exclude several prominent candidates for this month’s presidential election after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the electoral vetting body.
"In the vetting process some candidates were wronged. They were accused of untrue things,” Khamenei said on national television on June 4.
“Protecting people’s honor is one of the most important issues. I call on the responsible bodies to restore their honor,” he said.
Iran's ultra-conservative election watchdog, the Guardians Council, approved only seven candidates from a field of nearly 600 applicants, with the hard-line judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi considered the establishment’s shoo-in figure for the June 18 vote.
The Guardians Council came under criticism for barring a number of prominent candidates, including more moderate figures close to outgoing President Hassan Rohani that may have a chance against Raisi.
Rohani, who cannot seek a third term, said during a weekly cabinet meeting on May 26 that he wished the Guardians Council would select more candidates to ensure greater "competition" in the June vote.
Among those barred from the election are former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, and Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad was also barred and said he would boycott the election.
Following the criticism from Khamenei, who has the final say on Iran's affairs, the Guardians Council said it will revise some of its decisions.
"The orders of the supreme leader are final and his ruling must be obeyed. The Guardians Council will soon announce its opinion, acknowledging that it is not immune to error," Guardians Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei tweeted.
Khamenei’s statement amounts to a reversal of opinion, after he expressed support last month for the Guardians Council's decision.
Analysts say Khamenei’s criticism may reflect concern about low voter turnout and boycotts, which could be read as a no-confidence vote in the entire establishment.
In his address, Khamenei urged voters to turn out, warning that staying away would mean doing the work of the "enemies of Islam."
"Some want to give up the duty to participate in the election with absurd reasons," Khamenei said in the televised speech.
Khamenei last week made similar calls urging people not to heed calls to boycott the poll.
A record 57 percent of Iranians did not vote in parliamentary elections in February last year in which thousands of candidates, many of them moderates and reformists, were barred from running.