Wednesday, February 6, 2008

More Candidates for the Majlis Are Rejected

Only 31 Seats Are Available for Reformist Candidates

Following the patchy news about the review of the candidates for the March 14 Majlis ‎‎(parliamentary) elections by the Guardians Council (the highest body that vets the ‎candidates for the elections), it is now clear that reformers have no prominent candidates ‎permitted to participate in the forthcoming Majlis elections. The elections process in Iran ‎involves the initial vetting of candidates to the parliamentary elections which takes place ‎by the Executive Elections Committees in the provinces. Following that, a higher body ‎the Guardians Council conducts its own vetting through its Elections Supervisory ‎Committees. ‎
In this regard, former vice-president during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency ‎Mohammad Ali Abtahi posted statistics regarding this disqualification. Following the ‎massive disqualification of reformist candidates by the Executive Elections Committees ‎of Iran’s Ministry of the Interior, the next higher body, the Election Supervisory ‎Committees belonging to the Guardians Council (which is tasked with reexamining the ‎qualifications of the candidates), rejected another 180 reformist candidates! According to ‎Abtahi, “Only 31 seats from a total of 290 in the Majlis are left for reformists to compete ‎for. “This means that from amongst the 909 known reformist candidates who announced ‎their candidacy to run for the Majlis, only 138 are allowed to run for the 31 available ‎seats,” according to Abtahi. ‎
With this development, the Supervisory Committees have completed a mission that began ‎with the Executive Committees, i.e. the elimination of all reformist candidates for the ‎eight Majlis elections to be held on March 14, 2008.‎
Initially there were some reports that the Supervisory Committees had approved the ‎qualifications of some of the reformist, thus paving the way for their candidacy. Among ‎them was Morteza Haji, a cabinet minister during Mohammad Khatami’s administration. ‎But he later denied such reports. Assadollah Kianersi, a member of the Etemad Melli ‎party also among the approved candidates. Montakhabnia, who was the leading candidate ‎son the list presented by Karubi was also approved, albeit after much behind the scenes ‎maneuverings. On the other hand, the candidacy of Abolfazl Shakuri, an MP in the sixth ‎Majlis and a close associate of the Karubi’s Etemad Melli party too was not approved. ‎Reports had circulated earlier that the Guardians Council had announced its criteria for ‎approving candidates, among which was the writing of a letter of repentance to the leader ‎of the Islamic regime by any one who had participated in a protest sit-in for the ‎disqualifications of the candidates to the seventh Majlis which would also denounce the ‎others who had participated in the sit-in. And despite his earlier public announcement that ‎he had not participated in the sit-in against the disqualifications and was “against the sit-‎in by other MPs”, Shakuri was still disqualified for running for the elections.‎
It is with these developments in mind that Abtahi believes there is no hope for the ‎presence of reformists in the upcoming elections. “Now that only 31 seats are available ‎for reformists to compete against, there are actually no candidates who have been ‎approved to participate in the elections,” Abtahi wrote on his web blog. I the provinces, ‎some groups that have pooled in candidates to form coalitions no longer have a reason to ‎continue their work as their candidates have been disqualified. Even among the few ‎prominent individuals who have been allowed to participate as candidates, the candidates ‎themselves question the rationale for staying in the game because they believe that ‎without the coalition groups, there will be nobody to campaign and work for them to get ‎the votes.‎

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