Iranian minister asks for election delay

Iran's interior minister has asked for a delay in parliamentary elections set for February 20.

    Only Supreme leader, Khamenei, can overrule the governors

    His appeal, reported by the state IRNA news agency on Thursday, comes amid a showdown between conservatives and reformers over the blacklisting of candidates.

    Iran's provincial governors have ratcheted up the confrontation over who can run in next month's elections by declaring they will not allow polling in their areas unless most of the disqualifications are overturned.

    "All provincial governors have announced unanimously that, under present circumstances, there will be no possibility of holding elections," Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

    While Iran's supreme leader, Ayat Allah Ali Khamenei, has the authority to overrule the governors, their declaration suggests that if the conservatives responsible for the disqualifications do not back down, they will have to resort to extraordinary measures to hold the legislative elections on 20 February.
     
    The Guardian Council has disqualified more than a third of the 8200 candidates - including more than 80 sitting lawmakers.

    The move has triggered Iran's biggest political crisis in years, with reformers accusing conservatives of trying to skew the elections.

    Khanjani said the governors made the decision at a meeting in Tehran that ended on Wednesday night.

    Students' protest

    Earlier on Wednesday, Iran's largest group of pro-reform students urged people to boycott next month's elections in protest against the disqualifications. It was the first time any political group had called for a boycott since the crisis erupted.

    Iranian students have praised
    reformist MPs for their sit-ins

    "There is no possibility of fair and free elections," the student movement, the Office for Fostering Unity, said in a statement carried on the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

    "Considering that people's vote has no affect on the establishment, and there is no way to hold fair and free elections, there is no justification for people to participate in this election," the students said in their statement.
     
    The students praised the reformist lawmakers who have been staging sit-in protests in the parliament building since the disqualifications were announced earlier this month.

    "Just as they've sincerely resisted and have sworn to defend the nation's rights, they are expected to resist participating in such (sham) elections," the students said of the legislators.

    President Muhammad Khatami tried to head off a boycott of the legislative elections on 20 February, telling reporters he would strive to reverse the disqualifications down to the last unfairly treated candidate.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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