Iran Candidates Register for Elections
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Iran's leading pro-reform party on Saturday warned it might boycott next year's parliamentary elections if its candidates are disqualified.
The warning came in a press conference by Mohammad Reza Khatami, a younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami, hours after prospective candidates began registering for the Feb. 20 elections.
The elections are seen as a crucial test of the reform movement in Iran. Liberals might lose control of the parliament because of popular disenchantment with their failure to deliver reform.
Candidates have to go through a screening process run by the Guardian Council, a conservative body that has vowed to disqualify many of the current reformist lawmakers.
One of the tests they must pass is "loyalty to the principle of Velayat-e-Faqih," or rule by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The supreme leader sides with conservatives in the power struggle with reformists that has bedeviled Iranian politics in recent years.
Mohammad Reza Khatami, who leads the Islamic Iran Participation Front, said that if the Guardian Council blocks the front's candidates, "we may avoid fielding a list of candidates."
However, Khatami said his party would not support a voter boycott on polling day.
Khatami, who is also a deputy speaker of parliament, questioned the council's ability to screen candidates, saying: "Even the people of a small town understand (what is in their interests) better than the 12-member Guardian Council."
"People should be given various options to choose from. That (hard-liners) say they know what is best for the country when they disqualify candidates with certain views - this is dictatorship and unacceptable," Khatami said.
In the last legislative elections, in February 2000, reformists gained control of the parliament for the first time since 1979. Hard-liners responded by launching a campaign against liberals, in which at least 50 reformist publications were banned and dozens of journalists and political activists were detained and prosecuted. http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2003/dec/13/121306592.html