Sunday, May 22, 2005

Most Iran Reform Candidates Disqualified

Iran's hard-line Guardian Council on Sunday rejected all reformists who registered to run in presidential elections, approving only six out of the 1,010 hopefuls, state television reported.

The final list effectively barred reformers seeking democratic changes within the ruling Islamic establishment from the presidential race. The move came as ruling clerics seek to consolidate their power in the June 17 vote following the departure of reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Iran also is facing international pressure over its controversial nuclear program, trying to convince the United States and Europe that it is not seeking to develop weapons. The approved candidates included powerful former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who moves frequently between the hard-line and more moderate camps and was seen as a front-runner in the race.

The Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog that supervises the elections, is controlled by hard-liners loyal to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters. The council barred women from running for the office.

The other approved candidates were former police chief Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, former radio and television chief Ali Larijani, Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former parliamentary speaker Mahdi Karroubi, former head of the elite Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezaei. Former Culture Minister Mostafa Moin, who was the sole candidate of Iran's largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, was among those disqualified.