|Khatami says he will go ahead with Feb.
|By The Associated Press
TEHRAN - President Mohammed Khatami
gave in to the supreme leader's order to hold legislative
elections on February 20 but said the polls would not be fair
because thousands of prominent reformist candidates have been
Khatami's reluctant announcement and the boycott
of the election by many reformists is likely to further erode its
legitimacy, already in doubt after hard-liners repeatedly
sabotaged attempts to reach a compromise over the disqualified
In a joint letter sent to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei on Friday, Khatami and Parliament Speaker Mahdi Karroubi
warned there will be little motivation for people to vote.
An electoral supervisory body, the Guardian Council, disqualified
more than 2,400 pro-reform candidates, provoking strong protests
from reformist lawmakers and criticism from Khatami. Several
attempts to get the candidates reinstated have failed.
The letter marked a backing down by Khatami, who had earlier said
his government would only hold elections that were
"competitive, free and fair."
Khatami had asked Khamenei for a postponement of the vote to allow
for a resolution of the disqualification dispute. Khamenei, who
has the final say on all matters, refused.
Iran's largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation
Front, has said it would boycott the elections. The party is led
by the president's younger brother, Mohammed Reza Khatami, who is
deputy speaker of parliament and one of those barred from the
In their letter, Khatami and Karroubi said the government would
hold the elections only because it had been ordered to do so by
the supreme leader.
"Elections will be held on time on the basis of your
order," said the letter. An official in the president's
office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, divulged the letter's
The letter accused the Guardian Council of jeopardizing the
integrity of the elections. "The Guardian Council has barred
most of the prominent names from the February 20 election,
undermining the necessary competition and diminishing the people's
motivation to vote," the official quoted the letter as
The official said Khatami will explain his position to the nation
in a statement in the coming days.
The Guardian Council is appointed by Khamenei, leading some
reformist legislators to accuse the supreme leader of quietly
endorsing its actions.
Reformists accuse hard-liners of exploiting the disqualification
process to try to fix the elections in favor of the conservatives.
Hard-liners have denied this and said the disqualified lacked the
qualifications to stand. But the disqualified include 80 members
of the outgoing parliament.
Iran's provincial governors have said they would not support the
staging of the elections. But Khamenei warned them earlier this
week that such opposition would be illegal.
"No one is allowed to refuse to carry out his legal
responsibilities because of his opposition," Khamenei said.
Khatami's decision to hold elections has annoyed his reformist
allies and created a rift in the reform camp.
"Reformers want Khatami to live up to his promise of not
holding sham elections under any circumstances. Khatami should not
turn into an instrument in the hands of hard-liners,"
reformist university teacher Hamid Reza Jalaipour said.
Reformist lawmaker Rajabali Mazrouei said Khatami's decision will
have no effect on reformist parties boycotting the polls.
"There will be no change in the position of lawmakers and
parties that have decided to boycott the elections," he said.
Reformists won control of the parliament in 2000 for the first
time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But hard-liners have used
their control of unelected bodies such as the Guardian Council to
thwart attempts to liberalize Iran's political system and relax
its strict Islamic social code.
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