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Reformist party expects landslide victory in elections

Teheran (dpa) - Iran 's reformist party, the Cooperation Front of Islamic Iran (CFII), expects a landslide victory in February's Majlis (parliamentary) elections, CPII Spokesman Mohammad-Reza Khatami said Tuesday.

``If there is no manipulation and no violence (by radical groups), the CPII expects to gain two-third of the seats in the Majlis,'' Khatami, the younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami, told the press in Teheran.

The CPII was actually formed 11 months ago by President Khatami himself but for avoiding any interference in his presidential job, he quit the membership and now his brother is leading the party which has 180 members.

``Our plans for the next legislative period range from improvement in political and cultural spheres to programming an economic improvement through changes in investment laws both for internal and external sectors,'' Mohammad-Reza Khatami said, adding that foreign firms will get improved conditions for investment while national interests will nevertheless always have top priority.

He also called for freedom for the press and special courts with a jury for political charges and a better atmosphere in prisons nationwide.

``The current Majlis formation has caused drastic political setbacks like in the case of the dissidents' murders (in November last year) when it showed no the appropriate reaction,'' Mohammad-Reza Khatami.

He termed the conservative opposition or right wing, which consists mainly of traditional clergymen, as ``orthodox'' and harmful for the political development of the country.

The CFII introduced their list of candidates which includes prominent figures such as former leftist Speaker, Mehdi Karubi, a clergy, and his wife Fatemeh, as well as Mohsen Mirdamadi, one of the students leaders during last July's unrest, as well as Abbas Abdi, editor of the banned reformist daily Salaam.

The name of former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who will reportedly run, together with his daughter Faezeh, a renowned women rights fighter, for the G6 party, the moderate wing of Khatami's coalition government, was not on the CFII list.

``We had neither talks with President Khatami nor with Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani but we introduced candidates who are young, qualified and dynamic and have new political ideas,'' Khatami said adding that the list only includes five clergy.

Also included in the CFII list is former Vice-President Abdullah Nuri despite his conviction by a clergy court on charges of having insulted Islamic sanctities.

``Whether convicted or not and whether he will be disqualified or not, Mr. Nuri's case will lead to more votes for the reformists,'' the CFII spokesman said.

He further criticised a recent bill approved by the Majlis which has increased the voting age from 15 to 18. Under the new law, the reformists are believed to lose a large number of votes by the generation under 18 which played a major role in Khatami's landslide victory at the 1997 presidential elections.

With more than two months remaining until the elections, the reformists have already started their campaign to remove the conservative opposition, consisting mainly of traditional clergy, from their last power bastion. The conservatives have not yet introduced their candidates

According to a recent Majlis bill, a simple majority will suffice to enter the parliament and there is no more need for a two-third majority. The Majlis also intends to increase the number of the seats from 270 to 300.

The candidates will be screened by the higher legislative body of Guardian Council - consisting of six clergy and six lawyers - which is authorised to reject the nominees without any legal justification.

The reformists have several times protested against this scheme which might be revised until the elections. Many pro-Khatami candidates are expected to be rejected by the Guardian Council like they had been during previous elections.


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