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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 20:29 GMT
Defeat looms for Iran reformists
Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour
Mohtashamipour: "This is not a fair competition"
The main reformist coalition taking part in Iran's controversial election says it expects to lose after many candidates were disqualified.

"We will be a minority in parliament," said Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour of the Reformist Coalition for Iran.

Some 2,500 reformists were barred from the 20 February poll by the right-wing vetting body, the Guardian Council.

A prominent Iranian dissident, Hashem Aghajari, has urged people to adopt a policy of passive resistance.

More than 80 reformist members of the outgoing parliament were among those barred from standing.

The reformists issued a list of 132 seats where they said there was no real competition, with right-wing candidates guaranteed victory however small the vote.

Reformist Iranian history professor Hashem Aghajari
Aghajari accuses President Khatami of failing to bring change
Mr Mohtashamipour also complained that "this is not a fair competition" and said his coalition - even though broadened to include independent candidates - could only contest 218 of the 290 seats.

He had been approved to stand, but withdrew in protest at what he called the illegal and unfair disqualifications.

"There is such a disproportion, and the conservatives have mobilised far more means than us - so even if we have just one seat, we will have a victory and will have foiled the plans of the conservatives," he said.

Another 550 candidates voluntarily pulled out of the poll on Saturday.

Dissident's attack

Reformist allies of President Mohammad Khatami hold about 200 seats in the outgoing parliament.

Vital statistics:
The facts behind daily life in pre-election Iran

Mr Aghajari, a jailed academic, launched a scathing attack on the country's clerical establishment in an open letter.

He said that organising an "unfree election" marked an end for hope of reforms from within, and urged passive resistance.

He blamed President Khatami for lacking the "will and courage" to bring about the change that he said most Iranians wanted.

Mr Aghajari has long been a critic of the establishment. He was sentenced to death two years ago after he questioned the clergy's right to rule.

The verdict sparked weeks of student demonstrations in his support and the death sentence was later quashed by the supreme court.




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