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The BBC's Jim Muir reports
"His supporters hope to win the control of parliament"
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 13:26 GMT
Reformists hopeful despite ban

electoral banner Banner shows two names of candidates


Reformist supporters of moderate President Mohammad Khatami are still hoping to win control of parliament despite nearly 600 candidates being disqualified.

Since registration began two months ago, 576 reformist candidates have been disqualified by the conservative Guardian Council prompting an apology from President Khatami.


women in Iran Women passes by a wall full of electoral propaganda
"If there are people who feel their rights have been violated in some way, I apologise to them as a humble servant," the Mosharekat daily quoted the president as saying during an official function.

His comment has been interpreted as a gesture of solidarity with the barred candidates, who included some well-known figures from the tolerated opposition and the more radical fringes of the reformist camp.

However, even the reformists have admitted that the vetting by the Guardian Council - a group of conservative clerics and lawyers who regulate elections - was much less radical than in the past.

Analysts say that alone makes this election more free and competitive than many before in Iran.

Fragmented opposition

More than 6000 candidates are standing for the 290 seats in the new parliament.

There is a larger number of clearly defined parties and factions competing for the votes.

There are 18 separate groups in the reformist coalition. In key constituencies such as Tehran, which has 30 seats, they have been unable to agree on a common list of candidates.

That means they will, in many cases, be competing with one another, as well as with their conservative adversaries.

Most of the predictions, nonetheless, favour a majority for the reformists.

The conservatives are generally believed to have lost much public support, but they may make up for that by being more cohesive than their fragmented opponents.

In personality terms this election is likely to be dominated by two men.


Iranians walk past a poster urging them to vote Iranians are being urged to vote
One is President Khatami's younger brother, Mohammad Reza, who heads the largest of the reformist parties, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPP).

The other is the former president Hashami Rafsanjani, who has been put top of the list of both conservative and moderate groupings.

Candidates stand as individuals in Iranian elections, and the lists merely signify the preferences of political groupings, which voters can follow or ignore as they choose.

Rules

Under Iran's election rules, campaigning is restricted to a one-week span.

Colour posters, placards and the use of truck-mounted loud-speakers are banned.

Only small leaflets and brochures, with a candidate's biography, are permitted.

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See also:
09 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Khatami apologises to barred candidates
30 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Poll test for Iran reformists
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Khomeini immortalised online

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