Reformist party begins campaign for parliamentary elections
TEHRAN, Aug 2 (AFP) - Iran's Islamic Labor Party (ILP) kicked off its
campaign for next spring's elections on Monday, getting an early start
in a bid to end the conservative majority in parliament.
The reformist party, which strongly backs President Mohammad Khatami,
opened campaign season by covering the streets of the capital with banners
and holding a press conference to call for "maximum" voter mobilisation.
"We want to mobilise the public, especially women and young people,
in order to get the highest possible voter turnout in the parliamentary
polls," ILP director Ali-Eza Mahjub told reporters.
MP Soheila Jolodarzadeh said the party was "coordinating with other
political alliances close to President Khatami in order to assemble a
common list of candidates."
"Iran's workers must have their share of power," she said.
Jolodarzadeh said the party would hold meetings next week to elect directors
ahead of next April's vote, which will be crucial to the success of Khatami's
MP Abdolrahman Tajeddin said the Islamic Labor Party is trying to create
a "political renewal" in the country.
Mahjub said the party, which is linked to one of the largest unofficial
workers' unions in Iran, would put the nation's serious unemployment problem
near the top of its agenda.
Iran's unemployment rate is 10 percent, according to official figures,
but experts estimate the true figure is closer to 15 percent nationwide
and even higher in big cities.
Reformers are hoping to build on their success in last February's municipal
elections to wrest control of the 270-seat parliament, currently headed
by Khatami's arch-rival, conservative speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri.
They currently hold some 110 seats to the 140-seat conservative majority
with about 20 MPs self-declared independents.
Khatami, who defeated Nateq-Nuri in the 1997 presidential elecions with
strong support from women and youth, has been facing a difficult political
struggle surrounding his reform agenda.
The battle was heightened by last month's bloody riots in Tehran, which
conservatives charged was a sign Khatami was unfit to govern.
Many of the president's supporters accused conservatives and hardliners
of staging the violence in a bid to topple him from power or stymie his