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Iran's Parliament Ratchets Up Challenge to Guardian Council - 2004-01-25

Iran's parliament has voted to change the country's election law to prevent the hardline Guardian Council from restricting candidates.

Earlier this month the Council banned thousands of candidates - most of them reformist - from running in next month's general elections.

In an emergency session Sunday, Iran's reformist-dominated parliament approved amendments that would prevent the Guardian Council from disqualifying candidates unless they are criminals.

The parliament categorized as the bill as triple urgent, a designation used only when the country is in serious political danger. Such a designation has not been employed since Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

But to take effect, the measure must be ratified by the Guardian Council, which has the authority to overturn lawmakers' decisions.

Earlier this month, the 12-member Guardian Council disqualified more than a third of 82-hundred candidates running for parliament, including at least 80 current reformist lawmakers. Many members of parliament have threatened to resign over the issue.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later ordered the Council to review its decisions to ban candidates. But only about 300 - fewer than four percent - of rejected candidates have since been approved.