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Iranian President Withdraws Reform Proposals - 2004-03-17

Iran's president has conceded he didn't carry out two major elements of his reform plan, aimed at curtailing the powers of the hard-liners.

Iranian President Mohammed Khatami said Wednesday he has failed to implement changes to Iran's political system that would expand presidential powers and prevent the Islamic oversight group, the Guardian Council from disqualifying candidates for election.

Both legislative proposals were rejected by the Guardian Council last year and the reformist president said Wednesday he will withdraw them.

In a show of its political powers, the Guardian Council of 12 unelected clerics and jurists, last month banned thousands of reformist candidates from parliamentary elections. Conservative candidates won a majority of seats in the election.

Analyst Fahmy Howeidi, a political columnist at Egypt's al-Ahram Newspaper, says President Khatami has not been able to push through many of the reforms he proposed when he was elected in 1997, but his two terms in office have not been a complete failure.

"Although he failed to do many things, he achieved many things, because you see the press now and the discussions now in Iran compared to the discussions and situations in 1997 you will discover that he did a lot in order to defend people's rights and raise their voices so he helped the society to express itself," he said.

Analyst Amal Hamada, an expert on Iran and lecturer at Cairo University, says President Khatami is a good man, but not a good politician, and he is not likely to be replaced by another moderate president. "Unless the reformers, the hard-line reformers, are able to convince the people to go back to the elections and go back to the polls, I don't think a strong reformist candidate will be able to win," he said.

President Khatami was elected by nearly 70 percent of the vote in each of his two terms, but analysts say Iranians have become disillusioned by his inability to reform Iran's conservative Islamic regime.