Iran's reformists prepare candidate list
By Guy Dinmore in Tehran
Jan. 18, 2000
Iran's loose coalition of 18 reformist factions supporting Mohammad
Khatami, the moderate president, is close to agreeing a joint list of candidates
for next month's parliamentary elections, when they hope to overturn the
Ahmed Bourghani, a prominent reformist candidate, on Monday denied reports
that the May 23 Front, named after the day of Mr Khatami's unexpected landslide
election victory in 1997, was in danger of falling apart over its choice
Party lists will play an important part in the February 18 polls in
informing voters of the political affiliations of candidates seeking a
place in the 290-seat parliament.
"Differences within the May 23 Front are not so serious and will
not lead to disintegration," he told the Financial Times.
Mr Bourghani said that the coalition had so far agreed on 25 candidates
for the key 30-seat Tehran constituency and would not have problems drawing
up common lists for the provinces.
But he admitted the coalition could not agree on whether to include
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who is standing as an independent
candidate but also heads the list of the main conservative coalition. Candidates
may appear on more than one list, and Mr Rafsanjani could choose later
which list to abide by.
Mr Bourghani said the two main factions within the reformist coalition
- the Association of Combatant Clergy and the Islamic Iran Participation
party - were against Mr Rafsanjani's candidacy.
Mr Rafsanjani is portraying himself as an independent moderate and a
contender for the important post of speaker of parliament who could reduce
tensions between the main camps. But his opponents are suspicious of his
political leanings and level allegations of corruption against his family.
The Interior Ministry and the conservative-controlled Council of Guardians
eliminated 758 of 6,860 would-be candidates on political and religious
grounds, including several leading reformist and nationalist politicians.
The reformist camp, while appealing against the disqualifications, is
relieved that the numbers were far lower than in the previous parliamentary
elections. Mr Bourghani said it was a sign of the changing political climate
in Iran, maintaining that the 12-member council did not dare to go against
the popular will and was less under the sway of the conservative Islamic
clerics than in the past. He also said the Intelligence Ministry, which
blocked many candidates in the 1996 polls, was now more under the control
of Mr Khatami's administration.
Mr Bourghani had expected disqualification himself because of his role
in issuing licences for reformist newspapers in his post as deputy minister
of Islamic guidance and culture last year.
Mohammad Reza Bahunar, speaking for one of the main hardline factions,
told a press conference the conservatives were hopeful of maintaining their
majority. But he conceded that no group might win outright if a significant
number of independent figures were elected.