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York University, Professor Haleh Afshar
"The Iranian women have over 20 years of active political participation"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Iran election candidates line up
Iranian women vote in elections in February 2000
Khatami is opposed by hard-line clerics

The first-ever women candidates have put their names forward for Iran's presidential election on 8 June.

Two women are among 67 people who have registered so far.

One of them, Farah Khosravi, said the constitution was not clear on whether a woman could be president but she hoped her candidacy would be accepted.


If Mr Khatami does run, it's widely assumed he'll score an easy victory. So it will become a numbers game, with his opponents hoping he'll return with a diminished vote and stature.

BBC Tehran correspondent
The most prominent conservative figure to file was Abdullah Jasbi, the chancellor of Islamic Azad, the nation's largest university.

But the list does not include the man everybody is wondering about - incumbent reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

He has yet to announce whether he intends to stand.

A ministry source had earlier said the reformist cleric was expected to launch his re-election bid as registration began on Wednesday, thus putting an end to months of speculation about his plans.

Deadline

He has until Sunday to sign up if he decides to run.

The BBC's Jim Muir says Mr Khatami won a surprise landslide victory against his conservative rival four years ago and would be expected to win comfortably if he stands again.

But he has had a difficult four years - his reform program has suffered resounding setbacks at the hands of the hardliners.

Girls wave pictures of candidates in last year's elections
Young people are frustrated by Khatami's caution
Our correspondent says his indecision has also been a tactical waiting game that has left his conservative rivals with a dilemma. They, too, have held back from nominating a serious candidate.

An opposition candidate might risk serious humiliation at the polls, as happened to the former President, Akbar Hashemi Rafshanjani, when he stood in general elections last year.

He might also help Mr Khatami by posing a challenge which would stimulate more votes for him.

Others

Others who have said they will stand include the former intelligence minister, Ali Fallahian.

He was named in court by the jailed campaigning journalist Akbar Ganji as the mastermind behind a series of murders of dissident writers and intellectuals three years ago.

Our correspondent says his chances of winning may not have been enhanced by an obscure incident two weeks ago in which his son shot dead a police sergeant.

Another would-be candidate who has stirred interest is Ebrahim Sarraf, a former right-wing MP whose election platform includes a pledge to test an Iranian made nuclear bomb.

More seriously, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, a well-known reformist activist, has said he will run.

However, opinion in Iran remains divided over whether he is really challenging Mr Khatami, or whether it is part of a broader strategy to boost the overall reformist vote by appealing to young people impatient of Mr Khatami's caution.

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See also:

29 Apr 01 | Middle East
Khatami keeps Iran guessing
18 Mar 01 | Middle East
Iran cracks down on opposition
11 Mar 01 | Middle East
Khatami: Iran must have democracy
12 Feb 01 | Middle East
Khatami warns hardliners
23 Jan 01 | Media reports
Iran's broadcasters face the sack
18 Mar 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Rising tensions in Iran
20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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