Iran General NewsHardline Iranians to monitor elections

Hardline Iranians to monitor elections

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AP: Ultra-hardliners within Iran’s ruling establishment were appointed to a panel monitoring the next legislative elections, raising fears of foul play in a key vote that could determine the shape of the upcoming presidential vote. Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Ultra-hardliners within Iran’s ruling establishment were appointed to a panel monitoring the next legislative elections, raising fears of foul play in a key vote that could determine the shape of the upcoming presidential vote.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati and three other arch-conservatives within Iran’s Islamic establishment were appointed as members of the panel monitoring legislative elections due next March, the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

Their nomination by Iran’s constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, sparked fears of mass disqualification of candidates for the race, as was the case in 2004. The four will steer a committee that oversees the elections and approves thousands of other monitors across the country.

The nomination came amid an ongoing power struggle between reformists -who want more overture to the West and less clerical say in running the country- and hardline conservatives who want clerics to maintain complete control over government matters.

The Guardian Council is a powerful oversight body dominated by hard-line clerics that must approve all parliamentary legislation to become law. It also monitors presidential and parliamentary votes.

The council barred thousands of reformist hopefuls from running in the previous parliamentary elections in 2004, leading to a low turnout and giving hardliners control of the legislature. Reformists have denounced that vote as a “historical fiasco.”

A year later, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to power. But the hardliner has since lost much of his popularity, and reformists are hoping for a comeback if free and fair parliamentary elections take place.

“The appointments (of ultra-hardliners) increase fears that mass disqualification of reformist candidates will happen again,” said Jafar Kambouzia, a former reformist lawmaker.

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