Monday, May 23, 2005

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tells Ayatollah Jannati to Try Again

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Khamenei urges rethink of Iran poll bans: "Khamenei urges rethink of Iran poll bans

James Sturcke and agencies
Monday May 23, 2005
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered the country's hardline constitutional watchdog to reconsider its decision to bar reformist candidates in next month's presidential elections, state-run television reported today.
The Guardian Council, which vets the election candidates, yesterday rejected all the reformists who had registered to run in next month's poll. Of more than 1,000 hopeful candidates, only six were approved.

"It is appropriate that all individuals in the country be given the choice, from various political tendencies," Ayatollah Khamenei said in his decree, which was addressed to the council's leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.

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Ayatollah Khamenei called for the disqualification of the two most prominent reformists, Mostafa Moin and the vice-president, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, to be reconsidered, state television said.
Yesterday's announcement prompted a crisis meeting by reformers, who immediately threatened to boycott the election.

"We are warning the Guardian Council that we will not participate in the election if it doesn't reverse its decision," said Rajabali Mazrouei, a leading member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front. "Barring reform candidates means there will be no free or fair election." Similar outrage was provoked last year when the council, which supervises the elections, disqualified more than 2,000 reformists from legislative elections, leading to a low turnout. Reformists denounced that vote as a "historical fiasco".

Ruling clerics are seeking to consolidate their power following the departure of the reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who is barred from seeking another term. Though Mr Khatami came to power in a popular landslide in 1997, hardline clerics led by Ayatollah Khamenei have succeeded in stifling his programme for political and social reform.

The approved candidates for the June 17 presidential race included the powerful former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who moves frequently between the hardline and more moderate camps and is seen as a frontrunner.

The presidential election comes with Iran facing international pressure over its controversial nuclear programme as it tries to convince the US and Europe it is not seeking to develop weapons.

Mr Moin was the only hopeful who supported continued suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities by Iran in order to avoid a nuclear crisis and reach a political compromise with the Europeans.

Iran has warned that it will unilaterally restart uranium reprocessing activities if last-chance talks with Europeans fail later this week."