Iran MPs Reform Election Law in Challenge to Candidate Blacklist
January 25, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran's parliament voted for an emergency reform of the electoral law aimed at forcing hardline religious rivals to reinstate thousands of reformist candidates barred from next month's election.
MPs backed amendments aimed at making it easier for candidates to stand, in a direct challenge to the powerful Guardians Council whose election blacklist has triggered a bitter political crisis in the Islamic republic.
The conservative-controlled council, which vets legislation and candidates for office, barred 3,605 of 8,157 prospective candidates, most of them reformers, from standing in the February 20 election.
Dozens of reformist MPs, ministers, governors and even President Mohammad Khatami, have threatened to resign en masse in protest at the disqualifications that could paralyse the new legislature, due to convene in June.
Among those rejected are 80 sitting MPs, as well as other prominent figures.
In the emergency session on Sunday, the reformist-dominated Majlis or parliament approved an amendment which would prevent the Guardians Council from disqualifying sitting MPs unless they had been convicted of a criminal offence.
A second amendment would prevent disqualifications based on any other criteria than Iran's common law, a response to the Council's rejection of a number of candidates for alleged failures to respect Islam or the constitution.
The vote came only a day after Khatami and the speaker of parliament, Mehdi Karubi, demanded a "full review" of the blacklist.
But the electoral reforms, drawn up less than a month before the election, still have to be approved by the 12-member council, a bastion of Iran's religious right which has consistently blocked efforts to shake up the 25-year-old Islamic republic.
The fate of the amendments is likely to be known later Sunday or on Monday, with all the signs pointing to a council veto of the reforms.
"These amendments weaken the council's legal position and give more power to the (reformist-run interior ministry which organises the polls)," charged ultra-conservative MP Mussa Ghorbani.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei moved to haul the Islamic republic out of one of its worst ever crises by ordering the council to to be less stringent in its vetting procedure, but only some 300 of the rejected candidates have so far been reinstated.
The council, whose 12 members are directly or indirectly appointed by Khamenei, has been accused of seeking to rig the polls in order to oust reformers from the Majlis.
The body, which has defended its vetting process and insisted it is only exercising the laws of the Islamic republic, has until January 30 to certify the final list of candidates to the interior ministry.
That gives those finally approved only three weeks to pitch their views to an electorate already widely disillusioned, particularly voters who have supported Khatami and the reformists in the past.
"We are opposed to illegal control by a body which sometimes claims to know men better than God himself knows them," said reformist MP Mohsen Armin.
But another reformer, Hossein Ansari-Rad, warned that the electoral reforms may only serve to heighten political tensions.
"We may find ourselves jumping out of the frying pan into the fire." http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20040125/wl_afp/iran_vote_040125114206
posted on 01/25/2004 9:57:46 AM PST
(Until they are Free, "We shall all be Iranians!")
Phillips vs. Ameri: Anatomy of a smear
Goli Ameri wants an apology from Tim Phillips. Tim Phillips wants an apology from Goli Ameri. And both Republicans want a chance next fall to take on a Democrat they deem one sorry incumbent in Oregon's First Congressional District, David Wu.
So who deserves an apology -- Ameri or Phillips?
It's a question I would have preferred not to answer. Who wants to get involved in one of these nasty primary season scuffles? Phillips and Ameri look like top-flight GOP congressional candidates. I've written positively about both up to now. Why wade into this he-said, she-said scrap?
But this isn't a little dust-up over a public issue. It looks more and more like a bid to play the ethnic heritage card and question Ameri's patriotism.
Here's how it started: Ameri sends out an e-mail praising the Bush administration's new plan to fingerprint and photograph foreign visitors. Phillips fires back. He highlights a 1998 letter Ameri wrote criticizing a Clinton policy that required the same thing for Iranians. How, Phillips asked, can she square her support for the new policy with her opposition to the old one?
A fair question. Phillips had every right to ask it, and Ameri had every obligation to answer, which she did, though her answer is less than satisfactory. (The narrower Clinton policy wasn't effective -- witness the 9/11 hijackers -- and "humiliated and distressed" scores of Iranians who were trying to get into the United States.)
But Phillips wouldn't leave it there. "The bottom line," he has argued, "is she put the people of Iran's interests before those of the American people."
That's an explosive charge, especially in these terror-ridden times. It smacks of the old dual-loyalty charge long leveled against Jewish Americans.
Yes, Ameri is Iran-born. She also has been a proud U.S. citizen and fierce opponent of the Islamic extremist regime that forced her to abandon her native land more than two decades ago. Is Phillips suggesting he's more American than Ameri? Is he questioning his opponent's patriotism? Phillips says he isn't. He says he's only questioning her judgment. He's clearly not racist or anti-immigrant. His mother is an immigrant from India. But the best you can say is that Phillips fails to appreciate the dynamite he's peddling.
It's hard to put the matter more clearly than Ameri did in an open letter to Phillips. It's certainly hard to capture the pain this kind of blunderbuss attack inflicts on an immigrant American trying to participate in our public life.
As she wrote, "How could I support the interests of a regime that has imprisoned and persecuted my family, caused severe heartache, suffering and anguish to me, and executed dozens of my family's friends?"
Ameri goes on to detail the devastation -- an uncle who died two days after his release from prison, family friends lost to "a bullet in the back of the head," the confiscation of "everything my parents worked hard for all their lives" and more.
It would be one thing if Phillips had stumbled into this faux pas, apologized or not, and let it go. He's a new candidate, an excitable guy. These things happen. But Phillips hasn't let this go. Indeed, he seems to be doing everything he can to keep this controversy alive.
He sends a press release on Ameri's "Iran Flip-Flop" back to the National Journal's House Race Hotline, which, basically, posts the release with a catchy headline ("Iranian Flip-Flop") Then, the Phillips camp sends out another announcement: "The National Journal's House Race Hotline, a leading national political publication, called Goli Ameri's recent change in position on the fingerprinting and photographing of visitors from known terrorist states "the Iranian Flip-Flop."
So, Phillips uses the Hotline to legitimize his charge, which the Hotline folks said Friday they're not happy about, to keep this fight brewing. You might think Phillips believes it's smart politics to let more people know Ameri comes from Iran.
Except it's not smart politics at all. It's clodhopper politics. His reckless approach to this issue -- "Goli Ameri needs to come clean on this issue" -- says more about Phillips than Ameri, and what it says is this: If he fails to step back from this mess and apologize pronto, Tim Phillips may be either too careless or too cynical to merit a seat in Congress.
Which is saying something -- something more than a simple apology. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/david_reinhard/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1074949520326390.xml
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