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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 15:51 GMT


World: Middle East

Candidates barred from Iran election

The elections are regarded as a test of democratic reforms

The first nationwide local elections in Iran have been thrown into confusion just days before the polls after a conservative-controlled supervisory board barred several moderate candidates from standing.

The candidates include the former Interior Minister Abdullah Nouri, the student leader Ebrahim Asgharzadeh and an adviser to the president.

Mr Nouri is a close ally of the reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.

One newspaper quoted the hardline head of the board as saying that Mr Nouri was disqualified because he had not submitted the necessary documentation to prove that he had resigned from his official post as a deputy to Mr Khatami.

Police record

Another candidate was reportedly rejected because he did not have the clean police record required by electoral law.

The last-minute attempt by the conservatives to bar the leading moderate candidates from the race appears once again to have brought to the surface the power struggle between the two main factions in the Iranian leadership.

The BBC Iranian affairs correspondent, Sadeq Saba, says the move comes after campaigning had already begun for the elections, which the president and his reformist allies are hoping to win comfortably.

The elections which take place on Friday are the first local polls to be held since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Interior Ministry has described the polls as a vital test of democratic reforms.

The board has accused most of the rejected candidates of lacking belief in the country's clerical system of government. However, some board members say they were not consulted about the decision.

Written assurances

The issue of believing in the guardianship of the clerics was a source of dispute in the past but an arbitration committee resolved the issue two weeks ago by asking the candidates to give written assurances about their beliefs.

The issue of believing in the guardianship of the clerics was a source of dispute in the past but an arbitration committee resolved the issue two weeks ago by asking the candidates to give written assurances about their beliefs.

The Governor-General of Tehran, Ayatollah Azarmi, the man resposible for holding the elections in the capital, has described the board's move as illegal and said the candidates would be allowed to stand.

"Rejecting the qualifications of these candidates after they have started their election campaign is a violation of their rights and it will not only inflict financial damage but will dishonour them as well," he told the official news agency Irna.

Iranian laws are not clear about resolving such disputes. But observers believe that the move may have inaedvertently helped the moderate candidates, who may get even more votes because they will be seen as having been victimised.



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