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1/27/04

Iran: Parliament Speaker promises imminent breakthrough in electoral crisis

Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi said Tuesday that a committee, which has the blessing of the Supreme Leader, will be formed to resolve the disqualifications crisis in the next couple of days, IRNA reported from Tehran.

"All the officials hold the belief that good results will be achieved in the next one or two days; to be more specific, by the end of Thursday," he told reporters here.

Karroubi said the decision was made during a meeting of executive, legislative and judiciary heads with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Monday night.

The committee, he said, comprises Intelligence Minister Ali Younesi, Minister of Industries and Mines Es'haq Jahangiri, Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.

"It was decided that given the understanding which exists between the Guardians Council and the legislative and executive heads, a committee comprising these ministers will be formed in the next one or two days so that the problem is resolved in an acceptable and favorable manner," Karroubi said.

The parliament speaker said he had also met the Secretary of the supervisory Guardians Council, which led to 'good results'.

"We talked about many things. They told us that so far 500 (of those disqualified from standing in February 20 parliamentary elections) have been reinstated and promised that the situation will gradually improve," he said.

Karroubi, however, evaded answering whether the elections would postponed if the Guardians Council refused to change its decisions. Instead, he said, "We believe that there will be no serious competition under the present situation. We have already said this and are reiterating now that there is no possibility of competition in many constituencies."

On Tuesday, President Mohammad Khatami put an end to the speculation that the government may choose not to arrange the elections following the wholesale disqualification of prospective candidates and the supervisory Guardians Council's refusal to reinstate them.

"The government's plan is to hold healthy, free and competitive elections and we will definitely hold such an election," he said here while seeing off his Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil at the end of a four-day visit.

"To withhold the elections means to withhold democracy and God does not want such a thing for our people," he added.

Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari, however, said the possibility of holding 'free, healthy and competitive elections' was non-existent and warned that 'very grave and irreparable damage' was threatening the establishment.

"Elections will be healthy and free only when the law is implemented equally with respect to the electorate and the candidates," he said at the same ceremony to see off President Klestil.

"A totally premeditated plan has been devised to eliminate a certain party and this move does not comply with any legal norms.

"According to our estimates, deputies for more than half of the seventh Majlis seats have been specified by the supervisory boards ... what can be done barring a formality when MPs have been chosen in advance?," Lari added.

Over 3,600 candidates from among more than 8,000 of those who registered for the February 20 elections have been declared as disqualified by the supervisory electoral boards.

Dozens of incumbent MPs, mostly barred from standing again, have held sit-ins to protest the blanket disqualifications.

President Khatami and Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi have called for 'a fundamental review at the earliest' of the wholesale disqualifications.

The two officials have described the rejections as 'unworthy of the religious and democratic establishment' of the Islamic Republic.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also demanded that the mass disqualifications be reviewed and urged the Guardians Council to accelerate the work of re-examining those barred.

On Sunday, the Guardians Council rejected outright an emergency amendment to the electoral law, after parliament approved it the same day to make the supervisory boards' vetting of the prospective candidates less stringent.

According to the daily Yas-e No, 'the Guardians Council found this three-star emergency bill contrary to the Sharia law and certain articles of the Constitution'.

Council of Tehran University sees disqualification as ignoring people's rights

The Council of Tehran University said on Tuesday that the wholesale disqualification of hopefuls for the February 20 election is ignoring the rights of the nation to elect their own representatives.

The Council of Tehran University composed of deans of different faculties of the university and several university instructors said in a statement that such a code of conduct with public opinion creates an atmosphere of insecurity and social ambiguity and finally leads to brain drain.

"On the eve of the seventh parliamentary election which is a good opportunity for the public to exercise presence in a democratic election, the wide scale disqualification of the applicants has caused concern among the academics and especially the members of the Council of Tehran University," the statement said.

"No doubt that several million educated young population of this territory will see as futile their going to polling booths if they feel that certain groups (Supervisory Board and Guardian Council) within the Islamic Republic are manipulating the outcome of the election," the statement said.

Under the current situation that the Guardian Council has left 190 seats for the conservative applicants, what kind of election is going to be held, it said.

They urged the Guardian Council to heed the warnings of the elite personalities and not to block the way for a free and fair election.

"The election should be in harmony with the prestige of the Iranian nation and not to be a mockery of election," the academics said in their statement.

... Payvand News - 1/27/04 ... --



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