[JURIST] New York-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch [official website] said Sunday that the presidential election in Iran set for Friday cannot be free and fair because the country's unelected religious authority has approved a narrow list of candidates. A new HRW report [text; accompanying press release] highlights the fact that current Iran election law allows only candidates chosen by the country's Guardian Council [BBC backgrounder] to run. The Council, established under the Iran Constitution [text] and made up primarily of Sh`ia Muslim clerics, wields great power, including constitutional interpretation, final approval of legislation passed by parliament, and ultimate approval of all presidential candidates. The Council has approved just 8 of the more than 1000 candidates who have applied, and has denied all female candidates and others who possess antiestablishment views. Iran's election laws also require candidates to proclaim their loyalty to the religious doctrine of the Jurisconsult, or ultimate rule. Last month the Council reconsidered its ban [JURIST report] on reformist candidates and reinstated former higher education minister Mostafa Moin and incumbent Vice President Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh as candidates in the June 17 presidential vote. Reuters has more.