Iranian reformists clash with ''hardliners'' in parliament, President calls MPs to stay calm
Leading Iranian reformist parliament member Mohsen Mirdamadi accused Tehran's "hardliners" of staging a "coup d'etat" by disqualifying large numbers of reformers from standing in next month's parliamentary elections.
"I consider this rejection of candidates to be an illegal coup d'etat and an act of regime change by non-military means," said Mirdamadi, head of the parliament's foreign policy and national security commission.
"If this decision is upheld, there will not be elections but designations," he told reporters.
Mirdamadi was one of around 80 incumbent reformist parliament members who have been barred from standing in the February 20 elections by the Guardians' Council.
Meanwhile, a brother of President Mohammad Khatami and head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front - the country's largest pro-reform party - said the move by the Guardians' Council was a "mockery of democratic values".
"This is the biggest rejection of candidates in Iranian parliamentary history. If this decision is upheld, it will show that religious democracy is nothing but a mere slogan," said Mohammad Reza Khatami, another MP whose candidacy was also barred.
The Majlis [parliament] building, where reformist parliament members were gathering for a sit-in, would be transformed into "a center of resistance against this illegal action," he said.
According to Mirdamadi, the bulk of disqualified MPs were found by the Guardians' Council to have been in violation of an article in the electoral law which stipulates candidates for public office must show their commitment to Islam and respect the revolutionary principle that gives Ayatollah Ali Khamenei his position of supreme leader of the Islamic republic.
On his part, President Mohammad Khatami pledged Sunday to tap legal channels as it emerged that a large number of hopefuls, including many incumbent MPs, had been banned from standing in February's parliamentary election.
"I do not agree with this way of disqualifications and I will use legal channels to deal with this issue, which I hope will bear fruit," he told reporters after a cabinet session.
"I think what has happened contradicts the view of the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei)," he said before adding, "we must always be worried about the public dissatisfaction and God willing, the Guardian Council will make amends".
Khatami appealed on all political groups to stay calm and move in the framework of the law and avoid doing anything which may lead to tensions. "Majlis (parliament) shows sensitivity toward the country's fate and this is natural, but I advise (the MPs) to remain calm and God willing, we will manage to resolve the problem through peaceful means," he said. "Any action which may create tensions must be avoided and instead ways which help the protests bear fruit must be explored," Khatami added, according to IRNA.
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)