Iran's conservative election watchdog agreed today to allow two previously disqualified reformist candidates to run in the country' upcoming presidential election. The Guardians Council changed its decision in response to a request yesterday by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called on the council to reconsider its decision to exclude pro-reform hopefuls Mostafa Moin and Mohsen Mehralizadeh.
Prague, 24 May 2005 (RFE/RL) The head of Iran's Guardians Council announced the decision to reinstate former Education Minister Moin and Vice President Mehralizadeh in a letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei.
The decision came less than 24 hours after Khamenei specifically called on the Guardians Council to review its disqualification of the two reformist candidates.
Moin is the candidate of Iran's main reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF). Mehralizadeh had been running as an independent.
In his letter to the head of the Guardians Council, Khamenei said, "It is desired that all people in the country from different political interests have the opportunity to take part in the big test of the elections."
Some say Khamenei's request to the Guardians Council is an attempt to prevent the spread of protests in the country. Others say the letter shows his concern about a low turnout in the upcoming ballot.
The disqualification of Moin had prompted anger among reformists, who called it illegal. The Participation Front warned that the move would turn the vote into "a sham" and suggested it would not participate in the election. Some of its members called for an election boycott.
Reports say that yesterday some 100-150 students at Tehran University protested the disqualification of Moin and chanted slogans against the Guardians Council.
On 22 May, the conservative Guardians Council published a list of six people, out of more than 1,000, who it said would be allowed to stand in the country's presidential election. Five of them are generally viewed as close to the conservative camp.
The move was condemned by the Center of Human Rights Defenders established by Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. The human rights group said in a statement that any ruling by the Guardians Council on the competence of candidates is a violation of the law and a restriction of people's rights.
Ebadi, who is currently visiting the United States, told Radio Farda last night that she would not participate in the 17 June election.
"Since I don't consider these elections free -- because all of the candidates are not accepted and some will be rejected - I will not participate in the [presidential] elections," Ebadi said. "And as long as approbatory supervision (the candidate-screening process) exists, I won't participate in any elections."
The European Union and the United States have also criticized the disqualifications of potential presidential candidates in Iran.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, talked about the Iraqi electoral environment at a news conference in Brussels yesterday.
"The [European] Council has reaffirmed its disappointment about the decision of the [Iranian] Guardians Council last February  not to authorize a large number of candidates, including numerous reformists, to run in the legislative elections," Asselborn said. "The [European Union] ministers regret that the Guardians Council has again decided to approve only those candidates who represent a relatively narrow range of political opinion. It makes the expression of a truly democratic choice by the Iranian people difficult."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher suggested to reporters yesterday that the disqualifications are intended "to ensure that only those completely acceptable to the hard-line regime are presented to the electorate."
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