Iran ballot 'could include banned names'
By Gareth Smyth in Tehran
Published: January 22 2004
Mostafa Tajzadeh, one of Iran's leading reformers, said on Thursday that the reformist-controlled interior ministry might list on ballot papers any candidates excluded from next month's parliamentary election by the Guardian Council.
"If we put them on the list, and people vote for them, no one can object [if they're elected]," Mr Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister, said in an interview.
The Guardian Council, which oversees the political process for compatibility with Islam, is considering appeals from around 3,600 candidates, including 80 sitting deputies, it excluded from parliamentary elections due on February 20.
Mr Tajzadeh said that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, who urged the council last week to reconsider the cases, had "apparently not taken sides" and that this had prevented conservative demonstrations against a 12-day protest "sit-in" of reformist deputies.
But he added: "The performance of the Guardian Council will reveal if the supreme leader is a neutral referee or whether he is himself behind all these things."
Mr Tajzadeh argued that both the supreme leader and the Guardian Council were under pressure from public opinion, and cited the 2000 election, when the supreme leader intervened to validate the election in Tehran after the council had ruled there had been irregularities.
But he also warned of the "short-term" danger of "totalitarianism" if the exclusions went ahead. "In the long term, this cannot continue," he said. "People's demands can come through the ballot boxes or through rebellion."
Transcript of interview with Mostafa Tajzadeh
Mr Tajzadeh's remarks represent both a hardening of the reformers' position and an acknowledgement that they might be heading for short-term defeat.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, a leading conservative strategist, predicted this week that reformists would lose at least 50 of the 200 seats they held in parliament, even if all the disqualified candidates were allowed to run.
But Mr Tajzadeh estimated that the exclusions, if allowed to stand, would hand at least 180 of the total 290 seats to conservatives without a contest.
He said that many reformers would resign from parliament, the cabinet and administration if those currently disqualified were not - one way or another - included on ballot papers.
"If the majority of MPs, vice-presidents and ministers resign, it is very difficult to see how [President Mohammad] Khatami could continue," he added. "Surely he would prefer to resign as well."
Mr Tajzadeh, a leading member of two reformist parties that together hold around 140 seats, said Iran's reform movement had continued for seven years due mainly to Mr Khatami.
"Strategically he has been correct," said Mr Tajzadeh. "If the trend continues like this for some more years, we can have a completely democratic society." http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1073281237093&p=1012571727172
"the suspect told German police that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and three other ayatollahs met with Osama bin Laden's oldest son at an airbase near Tehran May 4, 2001 to finalize the plans for the attacks."
Earth-shattering news for the regime, if it's true.