Despite Lack of Popular Support, Reformists MPs Vow to Continue Sit-in Strike at Majles
The sit-in strike of 82 reformist Majles MPs, whose bids to stand for reelection was rejected by the Guardians Council, entered its fifth day, despite the Supreme Leader's call to the Guardians Council to review the decision to bar them. President Khatami's cabinet ministers and 28 provincial governors retracted their threats of resignation, which had been announced in support of the disbarred MPs, but despite lack of popular support, the pro-reform strikers vowed to continue their sit-in until they receive assurances of fair and free elections. The Guardians Council's election supervision committees disqualified nearly half of the 8,000 who applied for candidacy in the Majles February 20 Majles elections.
After spending four nights at the Majles, the protesting MPs were faced with the fact that no ordinary citizens came to the streets in their support. The six-year battle between the regime's reformists and conservatives, which continues now at its height in the Majles building, has always missed one element: the people. Many listeners who called Radio Farda hotline said the people cared little for the struggle of the regime's reformists. Tehran-based journalist Faramarz Qarabaghi tells Radio Farda that many people did not even follow the news of the Majles MPs' sit-in strike. The doubt in people's mind about the authenticity of the reformists' struggle, which has been nurtured during the past four years, would not go away with four nights of sit-in strike, Paris-based leftist activist Ali Keshtgar tells Radio Farda. People's memory about the conservatives' violence and the reformists' silence contributes to the present public apathy, journalist Sina Motalebi, who fled to Europe last month, tells Radio Farda. The reformists showed little attention in the past four years to people's demands, particularly for personal freedoms, whereas personal freedoms and boosting democratic institutions were on top of the reformists' election slogans four years ago, he adds. (Keyvan Hosseini)
Strikers rejected President Khatami's plea to end their sit-in and said their strike would only end in mass resignations. The upcoming elections are a crucial test for the reformists, who have lost popular support as a result of their failure to implement their promised reforms. (Maryam Ahmadi)
Moderate reformist website Baztab urged the Guardians Council to defend its decision to bar the reformists from standing for reelection, but reformist columnists called for retraction of the Guardians Council's vetoes. Meanwhile, the reformist daily Shargh predicated that the crisis would either end with a compromise, or the elections may be cancelled or postponed. (Shireen Famili)
The striking MPs have in effect attacked the foundations of the Islamic government and clerical rule, conservative Tehran MP Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a son-in-law of the Supreme Leader, told the daily Etemad. Any compromise would be to the detriment of the reformist strikers, pro-reform writer Ahmad Zeydabadi wrote in the reformist daily Shargh. (Ali Sajjadi)
The Guardians Council decision to bar 82 reformist MPs from the upcoming elections may serve to reverse voters' apathy, which is rooted in the public's frustration with President Khatami's reforms. (Baktash Khamsehpour)
Now the Guardians Council has a good opportunity to review the cases (of the disqualified applicants) with precision and conforming to the law, the Supreme Leader told members of the Guardians Council on Wednesday, reversing his decision announced a day earlier that he would not interfere. He said that in the case of the current MPs, 83 of whom have been barred from re-election, if their aptitude was proved in the past, the principle is that they are still competent unless it can be proved otherwise. Observers say the Supreme Leader's remarks have placed the striking MPs in a deadlock, since ending their strike would mean they only cared for their own jobs, instead of defending more than 3,000 other disqualified applicants. (Fereydoun Zarnegar)
The review ordered by the Supreme Leader is only concerned with the 83 disqualified MPs, not the 3,500 of other mostly reformist election candidacy applicants whose credentials have also been rejected by the Guardians Council, former Majles MP, Tehran University law professor and constitutional reform activist Qasem Shoaeleh-Saadi tells Radio Farda. Now, expecting that the Guardians Council would overturn the disqualifications, the MPs' strike may appear self-serving, if they end it. And, if they don't, they would risk splitting the reformist faction by defying President Khatami's plea, he adds. In any case, due to their inept performance in the past four years, the public is not expected to vote for them, he adds. If these reformist MPs had stood firm on their positions during the past four years, they would not have faced such an ending, he says. (Fereydoun Zarnegar)
London's Guardian quotes editorials from Iran, Pakistan and UAE newspapers about the Majles protest. (Shahran Tabari, London)
The fact that there have been no street protests in support of the "reformers" suggests much of the public has already lost faith in their ability to be agents of change, writes the Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Ordinary Iranians won't risk the wrath of religious police just to ensure power for another faction. This loss of public support didn't deter the Iranian Guardian Council -- appointed by and accountable only to, the Iranian Supreme theocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- from seeking to curtail the parliamentarians' meager influence.
A group of conservative theologians and seminary students threatened to march to the Majles from Qum in support of the Guardians Council. Their plan was cancelled, even though they had lined up buses for the trip to Tehran, Qum-based reformist cleric Ahmad Ahmadpour tells Radio Farda. The reason the right-wing pressure groups have any impact on the country's politics is that the reformists have been weak. Each time their opponents, who are a minority in the society and very few, stepped forward, the pro-reform group moved one step back, he adds. There is talk in Qum that pro-reform clerics may mobilize a group to go to Tehran to stage a demonstration in support of the striking MPs, he says. (Mahmonir Rahimi)
No permit has been issued for any demonstrations in front of the Majles, announced an interior ministry spokesman. (Farin Asemi)
In a communiqué issued at the Majles today, the protesting MPs said they would continue their sit-in until all illegally disbarred election candidacy applicants receive approval. We are waiting to see how the Guardians Council interprets the Supreme Leader's remarks, pro-reform MP Meysam Saeedi said. President Khatami's administration did not boost its Majles supporters yesterday, and the MPs rejected Khatami's plea to end their strike. However, they called the Supreme Leader's order a positive step. (Siavash Ardalan)
In their 8th communiqué, the striking MPs called for fair and peaceful resolution of the crisis. The Majles has been accused of radicalism by the conservatives, but this Majles silenced many critics of the regime outside Iran and showed a democratic face for the Islamic Republic to the outside world, MP Hossein Mar'ashi said. Forty-five applied in Chenaran, of Khorasan province for candidacy in the elections, but the Guardians Council rejected 21 of them, including one Friday prayer leader, on the basis of lack of commitment to Islam, said MP Ahmad Moradi, who resigned yesterday in protest against the disqualifications. (Maryam Ahmadi)
In his meeting with secretary of supreme national security council Hassan Rowhani, the French foreign minister called for democratic elections in Iran and release of political prisoners. (Farin Asemi)
Free election is not defined by the number of people who went to polling booths, Virginia-based human rights advocate and lawyer Mehrangiz Kar tells Radio Farda. The variety of filters set in the constitution to vet candidates block many social and political groups from entering the elections, she adds. (Ali Sajjadi) http://www.radiofarda.com/transcripts/topstory/2004/01/20040115_1730_1707_2027_EN.asp
Good post, freedom. Thank you.