Iranian reformers finally get go-ahead to stand on
eve of landmark poll
TEHRAN, Feb 25 (AFP) - Less than 24 hours before polls were due to
open for Iran's first ever municipal elections, a dozen leading reformist
candidates in the capital finally received the green light to stand from
moderate President Mohammed Khatami Thursday.
In a last-minute statement carried by the official news agency IRNA,
Khatami overruled a disqualification order issued against the candidates
by the conservative head of the election Supervision Council, Ali Mohavedi-Savoji.
"To clear up any ambiguity on the issue, the ruling of the arbitration
committee stands," Khatami said referring to a ruling Sunday by a
committee set up to mediate in the mounting dispute between the conservative-dominated
Supervision Council and the moderate-led interior ministry.
The president's ruling was immediately hailed by the reformers, even
though they said the order only applied to 11 of the 12 barred candidates.
"This affair has finally been settled and the candidates' names
will appear on the lists displayed in the polling stations tomorrow,"
said a spokesman for former vice president Abdollah Nuri, the head of the
main reform list in the capital and the most high-profile of the candidates
the conservatives had sought to disqualify.
The conservatives had threatened to cancel Friday's landmark poll in
the capital if the interior ministry did not heed its ruling.
"If the interior ministry does not take appropriate measures to
remove the names of the 12 disqualified candidates from the election list
currently at the polling stations in Tehran, the council will announce
the election process in the capital null and void," Movahedi-Savoji
said on the eve of the last day of campaigning.
But the reformists added that one of the candidates barred by the Supervision
Council, Azam Taleqani -- daughter of Ayatollah Mahmud Taleqani, one of
the fathers of the Iranian revolution -- had not been saved by the president's
She remained disqualified because she had refused to sign the required
written declaration of support for the position of supreme leader, the
constitutional centrepiece of the Islamic republic, currently held by Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei, Nuri's spokesman said.
Control of the capital with its 10 million-plus population is the top
prize in Friday's landmark local elections as both Khatami's supporters
and his conservative opponents seek to consolidate their local power base
ahead of parliamentary elections next year.