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Iranian Reformists Urged to Vote in High Numbers - 2004-02-17

Iran's president, Mohammed Khatami, has called on Iranians to come out and vote in Friday's parliamentary election in order not to allow the conservatives to seize control of the legislature. President Khatami said in a written statement the disqualification of thousands of reformist candidates has made people angry. But he urged voters not to allow a minority to take control of the Iran's future. He said that by voting, people can prevent those they do not like from entering parliament.

Earlier Monday, parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist, told a news conference that he will run for re-election, even though he considers the election to be unfair.

Mr. Karoubi said that maintaining a reformist presence in the February 20 poll is more useful than not participating.

Iran's conservative Guardian Council last month disqualified more than a third of mostly liberal candidates from running. It has reinstated some of the candidates since then, but the move has angered voters and many reformers pledged to boycott the election.

Some 600 reformist candidates who were left on the ballots said they have decided to pull out of the election in protest. Conservative candidates now face no opposition in almost half of the parliamentary contests.

A spokesman for the Coalition for Iran, a group that represents eight pro-reform parties, said Sunday that reformists will almost certainly lose their majority in parliament, which they have held since the last election in 2000.