Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Iran reformists sharply lower election hopes;_ylt=AuwFP1F2QqEraB18YljtbTqbOrgF

by Farhad Pouladi

Wed Feb 6, 2:02 PM ET

Iran's disgruntled reformists have drastically scaled down their expectations for parliamentary elections next month after the authorities disqualified half their candidates, the press reported Wednesday.

Reformists had been hoping to mount a serious challenge to the conservative domination of parliament and create a springboard for returning to power in 2009 presidential elections.
But the spokesman for the umbrella coalition of reformist parties, Abdollah Nasseri, said his forces were only competitive in 10 percent of parliamentary constituencies after the mass vetoing of candidates by interior ministry committees.

"We had concluded that we could compete for one-third of the 290 seats, but unfortunately... even under the best scenario we can now compete for only 10 percent of the seats," he was quoted as saying.

Even the reformist-minded grandson of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ali Eshraghi, was disqualified, the Kargozaran newspaper reported.

He told the newspaper that inspectors had asked his neighbours questions about his personal life in order to assess his suitability.

"I was shocked to discover that the questions tackled whether I prayed daily, if I fasted, if I wore a suit, if I shaved, and if I smoked and what kind of car I drove."

Eshraghi said he would not be appealing against the decision. "If the credentials of imam's (Khomeini's) grandson are not validated who should I complain to?"

The interior ministry in the first phase of the vetting process last month banned more than 2,000 mainly reformist candidates from standing in the March 14 elections, a move Nasseri has said applied to half of his coalition's hopefuls.

In order to pass the vetting process, candidates must meet a host of criteria, one of which is sufficient loyalty to Iran's Islamic system.

The final say over who can stand in the election lies with the hardline unelected vetting body, the Guardians' Council.

Ahead of the last elections in 2004, the Guardians' Council banned more than 2,000 candidates, leading the way for the conservatives to seize control of parliament from the reformists.

But Nasseri, whose comments were published by most reformist newspapers, denied that
reformists would encourage people to boycott the vote after the disqualifications.

"Though dissatisfaction among the candidates remains, the reformist parties who are members of this coalition should furnish the ground for participation by the people to consolidate political and social participation," he said.

Three leading rivals of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- former presidents Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative and former speaker Mehdi Karroubi -- met last week to discuss how to lift the ban.

The reformist list is being strongly backed by Khatami and also includes members of Rafsanjani's faction. However the independently minded Karroubi has also been running a separate reformist list.

Meanwhile, Iran's conservative former top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who has been tipped to run on a separate list from allies of Ahmadinejad, made a rare attack on the president's economic policies.

"By throwing around money, we cannot have development," he told the ISNA news agency.
"Development will only happen if the production is done by the people. This will not be realised by throwing around money and increasing liquidity, this will only result in inflation."

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