AFP: A decision to hold Iran’s parliamentary vote just a week before its main annual holiday has sparked protests from moderates who fear the timing could impede their chances, media reported on Wednesday. TEHRAN, June 6, 2007 (AFP) – A decision to hold Iran’s parliamentary vote just a week before its main annual holiday has sparked protests from moderates who fear the timing could impede their chances, media reported on Wednesday.
The Guardians Council, an unelected electoral watchdog that also vets all legislation, said last week the crucial vote would take place on March 14, just ahead of two weeks of New Year holidays that begin on March 20.
“The gentlemen have chosen this date as they might be worried about the poll results and the subsequent objections,” former interior minister Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari wrote in the Etemad Melli daily.
“One can understand the opposition’s doubts and concerns, given that the organisers and the watchdogs belong to the same political faction,” said the moderate cleric who served in the reformist cabinet of Mohammad Khatami.
Mousavi Lari complained that the date was “inappropriate” at a time when the country enters a two-week holiday during which newspapers generally cease publishing, leaving news agencies and state broadcasters as the only media.
“The candidates should have the chance to monitor the election in order to be assured about the polls, their health and the count,” he said. “Parties and groups will not be able to follow up on their demands.”
The timing for all elections is proposed by the interior ministry which organises the votes, but it also needs the approval of the Guardians Council.
An aide to former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani feared the religious holidays, marking mourning for Imam Hossein and the death of the Prophet Mohammed, could be manipulated by certain political factions to garner votes.
“Those who have set this date may have wanted to exploit the emotional mourning atmosphere in favour of a certain group,” Hossein Marashi, former head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organisation, said in the centrist Ham Mihan daily.
The election for parliament, currently dominated by conservatives, is seen as a key test of the various conservative, moderate and reformist factions as they jockey for position ahead of the next presidential vote.
Iranian media have spoken of a possible alliance in the vote between supporters of Rafsanjani, Khatami and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi as a moderate bulwark against hardliners loyal to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
A conservative MP also warned the election date could be exploited by incumbent lawmakers running for another term as it coincided with parliament examining the budget bill for the next Iranian year.
“There is the risk that MPs will seek to attract votes in their constituencies using the budget bill,” Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh said in Ham Mihan.
However Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi defended the election date, which he said was “somehow imposed on us” by the proximity of the two major religious holidays.
“Those who are concerned should know we will not allow violations,” he assured the moderates, adding that newspapers will be encouraged to publish over the election period.