Tuesday, May 24, 2005

SBS - The ultra-conservatives are happier living with a powerless reformist (Mr Mo’ein) rather than Rafsanjani

25.5.2005. 09:16:50

- Iranian reformers banned
- Iranian stalwart contests poll

Iran’s powerful hardline Council of Guardians has reversed its ban on two reformist candidates seeking to run in the upcoming presidential election.

The change came less than 48 hours after the council announced its original selection of six hopefuls to stand in the June 17 poll.

Pressure from the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saw the approval of Mostafa Mo’ein, the preferred choice of Iran’s main reformist party – the Participation Front – and independent candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh.

The addition of the pair may assuage calls for a boycott of the election.

Iran has prided itself on its typically high voter turnouts, often far higher than those of Europe’s democracies.

A boycott would deal a severe blow to the legitimacy of Iran’s electoral process, particularly at a time when Tehran is under increasing pressure from Europe and the US over its uranium enrichment programme.

Washington responded dismissively to the news of the increased candidate list.

“It really doesn’t change our essential view that this is a process that has been shaped and distorted by the decisions of some unelected leaders,” US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

The Guardians Council is comprised of appointed conservative clerics and judges and is answerable only to the ayatollah.

Analysts consider the inclusion of Mostafa Mo’ein, an outspoken reformist who has promised to tackle human rights abuses, as a tactic to sap support from the leading candidate, Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Mr Rafsanjani served two presidential terms from 1989 to 1997, and is seen as supportive of economic liberalisation and closer ties with the West.

He currently heads Iran’s Expediency Council, the nation’s top political arbitration body, and is widely regarded as the regime’s de facto number two.

“It could be that the ultra-conservatives are happier living with a powerless reformist (Mr Mo’ein) rather than Rafsanjani,” a political analyst told the Agence France Presse news service.

After eight years of rule by pro-reformist President Mohammad Khatami, major confrontations with conservative-controlled courts, the parliament, armed forces and political oversight bodies have produced serious ructions in Iranian politics.

Analysts say balancing the need to satisfy voters’ choice of their preferred candidate with ensuring a more harmonious relationship between elected and unelected officials will prove a real challenge in the June poll."