Saturday, May 28, 2005

Iranian reformist to run in presidential race -

Iranian reformist to run in presidential race - "Iranian reformist to run in presidential race

Saturday, 28 May , 2005, 21:28
Tehran: Iranian reformist politician Mostafa Moin, who was given last-minute approval to stand in next month's presidential election, announced that he would indeed stand as a candidate.
"After my illegal and unreasonable disqualification, I had two options -- one was quiting the elections, the other was participating. It was a difficult choice to make," Moin said in a statement.

He added that he had decided not to boycott in order to "invite all outstanding figures who have been unfairly and illegally tried and sentenced in the courts to be present on different levels of the country's management."

The Guardians Council, a hardline political watchdog which screens all candidates for public office, had initially blocked Moin -- who is representing the Participation Front, the main pro-reform party -- from standing in the June 17 election.

The former higher education minister has been seen as the most credible reform candidate, and his disqualification was greeted with accusations of a "coup d'etat" and calls for a damaging boycott.

Following the intervention of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Guardians Council backed down and agreed to allow Moin and another reformist to stand after all, bringing the field of contenders to eight.

However Moin was reluctant to accept the Khamenei decree, and there were fears that even if he managed to pull off a shock win he would simply be a lame-duck president and unable to honour his campaign pledges due to opposition from more powerful hardliners.

The reformists will also have an uphill struggle to bring out voters frustrated by the perceived failure of incumbent President Mohammad Khatami to overcome more powerful hardliners.

Furthermore, he will have to beat off Rafsanjani, who is seeking a comeback as the 26-year-old regime's number-two and seizing the largely vacant political centre by pledging to save the country from "extremists".

Rafsanjani, a 70-year-old cleric, is seen as a deal-maker who favours improved ties with the West and economic liberalisation -- something that may lure voters tired of Iran's international isolation and high unemployment.

He could also draw on support from many past reformist voters, eager to elect someone with more political clout.

Campaigning is already underway, and Rafsanjani has again moved to dispel the widely-held belief that he is extremely rich -- insisting that he has spent nearly all his money.

"Before the revolution I was among the rich seminary students," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the student news agency ISNA.

"After the victory of the revolution, I gradually spent my assets on living, my children and the revolution. Now I only have a plot of land in the city of Qom and I do not have any house or land in Tehran," he insisted during a meeting with students.

The other five candidates are hardliners Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Ali Larijani, Mahmud Ahmadi Nejad and Mohsen Rezai -- all veterans of the hardline Revolutionary Guards -- plus moderate former parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi.

Qalibaf, a populist former national police chief, has been tipped by informal opinion polls -- to be treated with caution -- as running a distant second behind Rafsanjani."