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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Reformists condemn Iranian poll ban
Iranian women study election forms
Elections have been hotly-contested affairs in Iran
By Jim Muir in Tehran

Reformists in Iran have responded angrily to the disqualification of what they say is almost all of their candidates in parliamentary by-elections set to take place in June.

The polls in 17 constituencies are for seats left vacant after last year's general elections in which reformists won a sweeping victory.

They coincide with the presidential election for which the incumbent reformist President, Mohammad Khatami, has yet to announce his candidacy.

The Council of Guardians - the highly conservative body which has the right to vet and veto candidates - has announced the disqualification of 145 candidates.

But the biggest of the reformist parties, the Participation Front, described the move as astonishing and incredible.

Pro-conservative Iranians demonstrate in Tehran
The conservatives have staged a fight back since last year
The Front said the ban amounted to a bitter admission by the conservative faction that its candidates were not capable of competing with reformists in a fair election.

It urged the Iranian people to respond by turning out massively to vote in the presidential poll, in which President Khatami is expected to be the front runner.

The Council of Guardians said that some of those disqualified had criminal records or links with opposition groups.

Thirteen of the those disqualified were actually approved by the Guardians for last year's general elections.

They won seats, only to find themselves displaced when the Guardians annulled the results in their constituencies.

That caused disturbances in some areas.

Now they are not being allowed to run at all.
President Khatami
It is still not certain if the reform camp's top man will seek re-election

The affair has made it clear that the bitter disputes between conservative and reformist officials, which dominated last year's parliamentary elections are likely to loom large again in the June polls.

If Mr Khatami is going to declare himself a candidate, he will have to do it soon.

Registration starts on Wednesday and ends next Sunday.

It is widely assumed at this stage that he will run but his apparent indecision has prompted appeals from reformist political bodies, some clerical groups and others, calling on him to stand.

His conservative critics have accused him of delaying in order to raise tension and dramatise the situation.

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See also:

14 Jan 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Backlash gathers pace
25 Apr 01 | Middle East
Iran's media war hots up
11 Mar 01 | Middle East
Khatami: Iran must have democracy
09 Apr 01 | Middle East
Iran parliament summons minister
18 Mar 01 | Middle East
'Conspiracy to overthrow Iranian regime'
16 Dec 00 | Media reports
Iran assesses reformist's legacy
20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
29 Apr 01 | Middle East
Khatami keeps Iran guessing
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