Iran's reformists plan to boycott 'unfair' poll

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The Independent Online

Iran's largest reform party said yesterday it would boycott the parliamentary election on 20 February, turning up the heat on hardliners in the Islamic republic's worst political crisis for years.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, said: "We have no hope that a fair, free and legitimate election can be held. So ... we cannot participate."

Iran's reformists are enraged by the decision of the Guardian Council, an unelected body run by religious hardliners, to declare more than 2,000 would-be members of parliament unfit to stand in the election. More than 120 reformist MPs resignedon Sunday, and President Mohammad Khatami's government has called for the vote to be postponed. More than 80 deputies in the reformist-dominated 290-seat parliament are among those barred from the election.

Mr Khatami saidthe party, one of the main backers of President Khatami, his brother, would put forward candidates only if bans were overturned and the vote delayed to allow more time for campaigning. Should the council reject the delay, President Khatami's government could refuse to organise the vote.