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One third iran parliament members resign

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Feb. 1, 2004
One third of Iran's parliament members resign

More than a third of the Iranian parliament handed in resignations on Sunday to protest the decision by hard-liners to disqualify hundreds of would-be legislators in upcoming elections.

A letter of resignation was submitted to parliamentary speaker Mahdi Karrubi by over 114 reformists who said they could not go ahead with the Feb. 20 upcoming elections, due to take place 20 February.

The resignations were effective immediately. However, the Iranian constitution does not stipulate for such an eventuality. It was unclear if they have to be accepted by any other authority or if they are final.

In a letter read aloud in the 290-seat Majlis, or parliament, liberal lawmaker Rajab Ali Mazrouie said that the result of elections held under restrictions imposed by the hard-line Guardian Council would be a foregone conclusion.

"An election whose result is clear beforehand is a treason to the rights and ideals of the nation," the lawmaker told some 200 legislators attending Sunday's session.

He said such elections would be "illegitimate and unacceptable to the nation."

The resignations came a day after the pro-reform President Mohammad Khatami, suffering severe back pain, called off an emergency Cabinet meeting that was to deal with the confrontation between reform-minded legislators and the hard-liners of the powerful Guardian Council.

Karrubi said that he and Khatami had began "new efforts" to resolve the crisis, and that they had been holding discussions with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who hand-picks most of the clerics on the Guardian Council, and can overrule its decisions.

Karrubi appealed to Khamenei to resolve the crisis, and accused the Guardian Council of "disrespecting democratic values and having no faith in a popular vote."

In stinging comments of the council, Karrubi questioned their loyalty to Islam.
"Are you loyal to Islam if you daily pray, but then trample on the rights of the people," Karrubi, a cleric, said to widespread applause by lawmakers.

Mirdamadi: The right to freely choose and be chosen is the basic right of the nation

Mohsen Mirdamadi, another pro-reform lawmaker who was among the 114 who resigned and was earlier rejected by the Guardian Council, said that the lawmakers would not compromise their democratic beliefs.

"We will not compromise on the most basic rights of the nation, that is, the right to freely choose and be chosen," said Mirdamadi.

The furor over the vote - Iran's biggest political crisis in years - started when the 12 clerics of the non-democratic Guardian Council disqualified more than 3,600 of the 8,200 people who filed papers to stand for election.

After reformists' complaints, the council relented and announced the restoration of 1,160 lower-profile candidates late Friday, the deadline for appeals or other changes to the ballot. But the 2,400 prominent reformist politicians and party leaders are still disqualified.

Reformists called Friday's action cosmetic. They accuse the clerics of trying to sway the vote to regain control of the 290-seat parliament, which they lost four years ago for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Hard-liners have repeatedly thwarted Khatami's efforts toward greater democracy and a relaxation of the Islamic social code.

On Saturday, Khatami had suggested his government would not go ahead with the vote, which he called undemocratic because hard-line Islamic clerics have disqualified more than 2,400 liberal candidates.

"My government will only hold competitive and free elections ... the parliament must represent the views of the majority and include all (political) tendencies," Khatami said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Hours later, doctors confined Khatami to his home for treatment of what a senior presidential aide said was a longtime back problem exacerbated by stress.

The resignations came as Iran kicked off 10 days of celebrations to mark the triumph of its 1979 Islamic revolution that deposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and brought a clerical government to power.

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