Iran parliament crisis threatens elections

Iran's government has warned it may refuse to organise parliamentary elections amid a dispute over thousands of candidates who have been prevented from standing.

    Parliamentarians were furious at the banning of candidates

    Chief government spokesman and cabinet

    secretary Abd Allah Ramazanzadeh told news agency ISNA that the government could not

     "organise an election which is uncompetitive,

    unhealthy and not free".

    He said

    "in all

    constituencies there should be real competition, and not a staged

    one, of all the people who are willing to compete legally and within

    the framework of the constitution".

    Ramazanzadeh said this is "the only condition of the government", but added before

    the 20 February polls "one of

    the conditions for a fair competition is the time for campaigning".

    Emergency meeting

    But given the ongoing dispute over the mass barring of

    candidates by the Guardians Council - a conservative-run political

    watchdog - "the time for campaigning is becoming limited".

    "In all

    constituencies there should be real competition, and not a staged

    one, of all the people who are willing to compete legally and within

    the framework of the constitution"

    Abd Allah Ramazanzadeh,
    Chief government spokesman

    His comments came before an emergency meeting on Monday evening

    between

    Iran's top political leaders to discuss the crisis. 

    "The meeting will include the Iranian President Muhammad Khatami, head of the Parliament Mahdi Kharubi, and the former Iranian President Hashimi Rafsanjani," Aljazeera's correspondent in Tehran said.

    Under Iran's constitution, the interior ministry - currently

    held by political reformers - is in charge of organising elections and vote

    counting.

    Barred candidates 

    An undisclosed number of cabinet

    members have informed President Muhammad Khatami of their intention

    to resign if the crisis continues.

    The Guardians Council, who are the protectors of the Islamic Republic, have barred more than 3500 candidates from the election.

    However, President Khatami has urged the council to reconsider its blacklist, which it has promised to do before the end of the month.

    SOURCE: AFP


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