Factional tug-of-war prevents election of new Tehran
TEHRAN, May 25 (AFP) - Tehran's municipal council on Tuesday postponed
the election of a new mayor for the second time in a week amid a dispute
over who should head one of the world's largest capitals.
"The election of the mayor is not on Tuesday's agenda of the city
council meeting," a municipality source told AFP, adding that members
of the council had failed to reach a consensus over the candidates.
During the past two days, the media and political circles have been
reporting "serious disagreements" between the 15 city council
members over the candidates seeking the post of mayor of Tehran.
"Naming a new mayor for Tehran is a crucial and important task,"
the official IRNA news agency quoted the chairman of the council, Abdollah
Nuri, as saying.
"(We) are determined to please the people by appointing a powerful
mayor," said the former interior minister.
The council first postponed the election Sunday, officially because
of the participation of councillors in a ceremony in Tehran marking the
second anniversary of moderate Mohammad Khatami's election as president.
The municipal council is charged with finding a replacement for the
former mayor, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, who started serving a two-year jail
sentence for corruption this month.
Karbaschi lost his job last year when he was charged with corruption
in a case which he and other leading reformers claimed was brought by his
conservative political opponents to weaken the Khatami government.
The council, which was elected in Iran's first ever municipal polls
in February, is dominated by reformists from various factions backing Khatami,
and can choose a mayor from outside its own membership.
Last week, the list of 74 applicants was narrowed down to nine serious
Three of the nine candidates have already turned down the offer, however,
to become mayor of this city of more than 10 million people.
According to IRNA, Mohammad Ibrahim Asqarzadeh rejected the offer at
Tuesday's council meeting and called for the election of a new mayor through
a "direct vote of the people."
Two other candidates, Soheila Jelodarzadeh and Ezzatollah Sahabi,
turned down the offer earlier, leaving six candidates for the post.
According to the press, some council members, including chairman Nuri,
favor the election of Mohammad Atrianfar -- a close friend and ally of
former mayor Karbaschi.
Atrianfar, a member of the liberal-minded Executives of Construction
party, has been Karbaschi's deputy as the chief editor of Hamshahri daily
and has worked closely with the popular former mayor for some 10 years.
"The council will name a mayor from among the present candidates
or new persons who will be more competent in civil management and eligible
for the administration of Tehran," IRNA quoted council chairman Nuri
Fakhreddin Danesh-Ashtiani, a member of the radical left faction who
is close to Khatami, is also considered to be a front-runner.
Former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani reportedly favors Mohammad
Gharazi, a former cabinet minister considered close to Iran's supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khemenei.
February's first-ever municipal elections in Iran were seen as the
greatest achievement so far in Khatami's efforts to democratize Iranian
But the battle over the post of Tehran mayor has turned into a political
tug-of-war and poses a serious crisis. The president on Sunday during
a ceremony marking the second anniversary of his election called on municipal
councils across the country to perform their duties without being "bound
to a certain political faction."