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MPs reject screen-candidates bill

Thursday, August 12, 1999

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The Iranian parliament rejected a bill that would have relaxed the screening of candidates for next year's legislative elections, the Tehran Times reported Thursday.

Moderates in parliament wanted the Guardians Council, which acts as an upper house of parliament and oversees elections, to ease its screening process.

The council has the power to disqualify any candidate. It is dominated by conservatives who oppose President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate who has relaxed media restrictions and strict Islamic rules since taking office in 1997.

In October 1998, the council disqualified 214 candidates out of 400 for election to the 86-member Assembly of Experts. The rejected candidates were Khatami supporters.

The bill to relax the council's control was presented by moderates. But hard-line legislators hold the majority in the assembly. The bill was voted down by a 116-60 vote with 14 abstentions, said the Tehran Times, which was received in Dubai.

Moderates and hard-liners have already begun preparing for the February polls, which are seen as the next showdown between the two camps.

Khatami needs the support of the 270-seat parliament, or Majlis, to speed up his reforms. The hard-line clergy, which accuses Khatami of betraying the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution, is determined to thwart his program.


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