Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Hindu : International : Reformers rally behind Rafsanjani

The Hindu : International : Reformers rally behind Rafsanjani: "

Date:21/06/2005 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2005/06/21/stories/2005062104411600.htm

Reformers rally behind Rafsanjani
Atul Aneja
Electorate polarised ahead of run-off poll scheduled for Friday "Iran faces the threat of fascism if anti-reform faction gains strength"

TEHERAN: Threatened by the possibility of hardliners taking over the Presidency, Iran's reformers are rallying behind the centrist cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani before Friday's run-off elections.

The first round of polling showed ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerging as the challenger to Mr. Rafsanjani. The two will contest the second round of elections as none out of the seven candidates could poll the mandatory 50 per cent votes necessary to avoid the run-off. Mr. Ahmadinejad, linked to the frontline Revolutionary Guard forces and religious paramilitary Basij, got 5.7 million votes, while Mr. Rafsanjani was narrowly ahead with 6.1 million.

The leading reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), said people had to vote to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad, from becoming President. "Now the country faces the danger of direct involvement by military parties," its statement said.

Another reformist party, the Islamic Revolution Mujahideen Organisation (IRMO), led by Behzad Nabavi, also declared its backing for Mr. Rafsanjani, disregarding its past differences with him. It said Iran faced the threat of fascism and cited the "orchestrated involvement of military bodies and entities ... in favour of the most radical anti-reform faction."

Meddling in poll alleged

Contrary to predictions, Mostafa Moin, the IIPF backed candidate ended up in fifth place, behind the former Speaker, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Elahe Koulaei, spokeswoman for Mr. Moin had earlier said Basij had tampered with the vote, while Mr. Karroubi, in an open letter sought Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's intervention after accusing "sections of the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij" of meddling with the polls.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) later said two Iranian reformist newspapers were banned from appearing on Monday after they published Mr. Karroubi's letter.

Mr. Qalibaf who finished fourth in the first round is also expected to announce his support for Mr. Rafsanjani — a move that is likely to see the emergence of a pro-reform front.

Reformists have been alarmed by Mr. Ahmadinejad's challenge as they see their influence within the political system receding rapidly. They have already lost their hold over Parliament in the previous election, and the unelected Guardian Council, seen as the second most powerful body after the Supreme Leader's office, has blocked several pro-reform initiatives of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami.

Fancying their chances, Mr. Ahmadinejad's supporters have also started rallying behind him. Hardline candidate Ali Larijani, a former head of state television who finished sixth in the first round, said he would support Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The Society for Islamic Revolution Sacrificers also declared its support for the former Mayor, deepening the polarisation in politics. .

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