Iranians must have the "right to choose" between different political movements, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday, as controversy grows over the disqualification of thousands of candidates in upcoming polls.Speaking at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during annual celebrations of the 1979 revolution, Rouhani, a moderate conservative, praised the political heritage of the Islamic republic's founder.
"The imam (Khomeini) insisted on the fact that people must participate in all elections and have the right to choose", Rouhani said during the address, broadcast on state television.
"Whoever prevents people from choosing ... and whoever discourages people from going to the polls, is certainly far from the approach of the imam", he added, surrounded by members of the government.
Controversy has been raging for the past fortnight, pitting the coalition that supports Rouhani's government against the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran's elections and is dominated by ultra-conservatives.

Rouhani made reference to the failed constitutional revolution in 1905 -- the first attempt to establish democracy in Iran -- with the restoration of an absolute monarchy some years later.
He warned that the same could happen to the Islamic republic if elections became a mere "formality", with weak turnout.

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