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Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 22:57 GMT
Sign-up for Iran's testing poll

Summer demonstrations showed the strength of reformist will

The registration of candidates has begun for Iran's February general elections which will be a significant test of the reform programme instigated by President Muhammad Khatami.

Iran crisis
Reformists are hoping to win control of Majlis, or parliament, from the conservatives who currently predominate, but the outcome remains highly uncertain.

In past elections many moderates did not even make it through the selection process, which reformists say is controlled by hardliners.

Abdollah Nouri: Khatami spearhead in past elections
Our correspondent says it is looking increasingly unlikely that the man who led reformers in previous elections, Abdollah Nouri, will be able to stand.

Mr Nouri - a former interior minister and a close associate of President Khatami - was sentenced in November by special clerical court to five years in prison for "spreading anti-Islamic propaganda".

Qualification hurdle

Candidates have one week to register, before the real struggle begins. Officially, the campaign begins only nine days before the vote, but there will be the long process of scrutinising prospective candidates, disqualifications and appeals.

The outcome of this process is likely to be hotly disputed, if previous elections are any guide.

In the past many moderate candidates have been weeded out without reasons even being given, though under a new elections law candidates who have been disqualified can now at least demand a written explanation.

Reformers are expected to put forward as many candidates as they can field, in the hope of increasing their chances of getting their supporters through the selection procedure.

Nouri's appeal

Khordad (pictured) goes, and is replaced by Fath
The loss of Mr Nouri will be keenly felt by the reform camp. He led the moderates and to victory in the Islamic Republic's first municipal election last February.

It is widely believed that if the vetting procedures were less rigid the reformists would win a majority in the new parliament as well.

Mr Nouri's lawyer still hopes to lodge an appeal and have him released in time to register as a candidate, but the court has turned down the request.

In another development, the banned newspaper Khordad which was published by Mr Nouri has relaunched under a new name.

The new daily is called Fath, meaning Victory, and its first edition said continued attempts by hardliners to stop the process of reform would only succeed in making the movement stronger.

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See also:
11 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Banned Iranian newspaper is reborn
06 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Students protest against jailing of reformist
30 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Where now for Iran's reformists?
07 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Iranian court allows Nouri appeal
27 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Profile of Abdollah Nouri
01 Dec 99 |  Middle East
Khatami urges free media
15 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Student power in Iran
16 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Analysis: Iran's divided society
12 Jul 99 |  Middle East
Renewed clashes in Tehran

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