Iran’s Khatami urges supporters to vote despite candidate crackdown
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Iran’s Khatami urges supporters to vote despite candidate crackdown

Reformist ex-president says ‘massive participation’ in upcoming parliamentary elections serves ‘national interests’

Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, file)
Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, file)

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran’s reformist ex-president has called on his supporters to cast their vote in the crucial upcoming election despite a ban preventing many reformist candidates from running.

In a statement issued late Monday, Mohammad Khatami said voting in the Feb. 26 parliamentary elections would serve “national interests.”

Khatami said although it is disappointing that “capable” and “deserving figures” have been disqualified, people should vote because “massive participation” and “heated elections” are in their interests.

The reformist ex-president remains popular among young people and women, but is deeply disliked by hard-liners and the state media has banned the broadcast of his picture.

After weeks of intensive political lobbying by President Hassan Rouhani, the Guardian Council, Iran’s hard-line constitutional watchdog, reversed a ban on 1,500 parliamentary candidates Saturday. It is unclear how many of those approved are reformists.

In total, about 6,200 candidates — including 586 women — have now been approved to run for Iran’s 290-seat parliament. Over 12,000 hopefuls had initially registered for the election.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waits before a meeting with French Senate President Gerard Larcher, in Paris, Wednesday, January 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waits before a meeting with French Senate President Gerard Larcher, in Paris, Wednesday, January 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Ali Amiri said the Rouhani administration worked hard to reverse as many disqualifications as possible to pave the way for a “competitive election.” He said he had written to the Guardian Council, providing “analysis” and “consultations” to encourage a reversal of the ban.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said the nuclear deal reached by Iran and world powers in January has led to more eagerness among Iranians to vote, by increasing “people’s enthusiasm to have a role in their country’s political, social, legislative and economic future.”

Amiri added that a greater number of candidates in the Feb. 26 vote is expected to lead to a larger turnout. In the capital Tehran, some 1,200 candidates will compete for 30 seats.

In past elections, large turnouts have led to more seats for pro-reform candidates.

The elections are expected to be a show-down between hard-liners and moderates, who are hoping for an electoral boost following the newly-implemented nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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