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Iran hard-liners approve more candidates

Iranian hard-liners have reinstated more candidates who were barred from next month’s parliamentary elections, but reformers rejected the move Friday as cosmetic and threatened to resign.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hard-liners have reinstated more candidates who were barred from next month’s parliamentary elections, but reformers rejected the move Friday as cosmetic.

As the battle over who can run in the Feb. 20 polls continued, more than 70 senior civil servants, including more than a dozen deputy ministers, threatened to resign if the disqualification of thousands of reformist candidates was not overturned.

The head of the body responsible, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, defended the Guardian Council’s disqualifications of more than a third of the candidates as well-considered.

State radio quoted an official of the Guardian Council, Mohammad Jahromi, as saying Friday that the number of candidates who had been reinstated had risen to 350 from 200. Last week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked the council to reconsider the disqualifications.

“All legal factions have election candidates in all constituencies now,” Jahromi said of the reinstatements.

But Saeed Shariati, a leader of Iran’s largest reformist party, dismissed the reinstatements of 350 out of more than 3,000 disqualified candidates.

“Approval of a few little-known hopefuls by the Guardian Council is meaningless. No one will be fooled by such tactics,” said Shariati, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front.

“As long as prominent names and thousands of liberal hopefuls remain blacklisted for their reformist views, there will be no possibility of free elections,” Shariati told The Associated Press.

Most candidates disqualified
A majority of the front’s candidates have been disqualified, including their leader, Mohammad Reza Khatami, a deputy speaker of parliament and a younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami.

Leading reformists in the civil service and parliament have said they would make “important decisions” in the next few days if the disqualifications were not overturned.

Some have already said an election boycott is likely. Others have urged the Interior Ministry to ignore the disqualifications and list all the disqualified candidates on the ballots.

Reformers believe the conservatives are trying to skewer the elections in their favor. Hard-liners claim the disqualified candidates failed to meet the legal criteria for being  members of parliament. Among those who were barred from running are 80 liberals who are members of the current parliament.

The disqualifications have provoked Iran’s worst crisis in years. Most of the Cabinet and six vice presidents have submitted resignations in protest. Khatami has not so far accepted the resignations. Legislators have staged daily sit-ins in the parliament lobby.

The civil servants who threatened to resign said in a letter to Khatami: “Mass disqualifications have infringed on the legitimate right of the nation to freely choose lawmakers and have undermined democracy. ... If this trend is not reversed, we won’t be able to serve in our position.”

The civil servants include Deputy Culture Minister Mohammad Sohofi, Deputy Cooperatives Minister Mohammad Salamati and Iran’s representative to OPEC, Hossein Kazempour Ardabili. A copy of their letter was given to the AP on Friday.

In his prayer sermon Friday at Tehran University, broadcast on national television and radio, Jannati said: “The quality of checking the qualification of election hopefuls — from the first stage to the last — in the Guardian Council has been well calculated, legal and accurate.”