While Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful Guardian Council, insists that the upcoming parliamentary elections are "fully competitive," a number of high-ranking clerics have protested the Council's decision to bar thousands of reformist and independent candidates from running. Ayatollahs Montazeri, Makarem Shirazi, Ebrahim Amini, Noormofidi, Haeri Shirazi, and Bayat Zanjani have all released statements condemning the scope of disqualifications. Ayatollahs Montazeri and Makarem Shirazi are among the handful of living Shi'ite grand ayatollahs.
Ayatollah Montazeri told an Italian publication, "You can speak of freedom, particularly in elections, only when conditions are such that all groups and especially the elite and professionals are able to enter the scene, not when only people affiliated with a certain school of thought are allowed to participate. Elections mean that people will be the electors, not the Guardian Council or a special group; otherwise, these are called selections, not elections!"
In addition to Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi is another grand ayatollah who has criticized the scope of disqualifications. Though Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi sympathizes with conservatives and was opposed to the reform movements, he protested the "disqualification of many candidates," noting, "In some cases, fairness has not been observed, and even some of the supreme leader's candidates have been disqualified… We hope that, in the remaining time, reasonable objections are taken into account and that those who support and are loyal to the regime would receive friendly vindication."
Ayatollah Noormofidi, Gorgan's Friday prayer leader, told followers in a meeting, "What has brought up many questions for concerned people from all walks of life these days is the issue of widespread disqualifications. Some of the people that were disqualified are fully known by the supreme leader, and I am certain that he would not have approved the decision to disqualify them."
Ebrahim Amini, the conservative Friday prayer leader of Ghom, called for the observance of "Islamic ethics" and "laws" in examining candidates' qualification, adding, "Bigotry and close-mindedness cost us and undermine the reputation of the Islamic nation."
Meanwhile, the conservative Friday prayer leader of Shiraz, Haeri Shirazi, condemned the barring of reformist and independent candidates and announced his intention to resign with the supreme leader's approval.
Finally, Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, a high-ranking cleric in Ghom who sympathizes with reformists, sent an open letter to Rafsanjani, Karoubi and former president Khatami warning them that the Islamic Republic will be in danger of disintegration if they back down from their demand to hold competitive elections.
Though several high-ranking ayatollahs have criticized the government's handling of the qualification process, the spokesperson for the Guardian Council denied reports that clerics have began protesting the Council's decisions. The Council's spokesperson, Abas Ali Kadkhodaei, told reporters, "I have not heard any criticism. Some have called for more precision, which we accept and will certainly take into account, and if anyone's rights have been undermined, we will work to restore those rights."