Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Khamenei orders election ban rethink:
"'It's appropriate that all individuals in the country be given the choice from various political tendencies,' he said. 'Therefore, it seems that [the] qualification of Mr Mo'ein and Mr Mehralizadeh [should] be reconsidered.'

Mr Khamenei's unexpected concession to reformists is almost certainly dictated by fears of a damagingly low voter turnout, leaving the clerical regime open to the charge that it lacks democratic legitimacy.

It may also be calculated to reduce the electoral strength of Mr Rafsanjani, the frontrunner, whose candidacy Mr Khamenei opposes. Despite calls for a boycott, many reform-minded voters were expected to vote for Mr Rafsanjani to prevent a hardliner being elected. Mr Khamenei is ideologically opposed to the candidacy of Mr Mo'ein, who has promised to release political prisoners and said he would consider suspending Iran's nuclear programme. He also regards Mr Rafsanjani as a potential rival.

Senior government figures have acknowledged that a high turnout is vital to reinforce the regime's democratic credentials in the face of US and European pressure for it to abandon its nuclear aspirations.

The wholesale exclusion of reformists risked deepening voter disillusionment, already widespread because of hardliners' systematic obstruction of the reform-minded programme of the outgoing president, Mohammed Khatami."

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