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EghtesadOnline: Lamenting the Interior Ministry's executive boards’ decision to disqualify a host of senior reformist candidates for the upcoming parliamentary election, the top pro-reform figures have urged the Guardians Council to step in and reverse the trend.

"Extremists are attempting to disillusion the public from electoral participation," cautioned Secretary-General of Democratic Party Mostafa Kavakebian during a meeting between the Council for Coordinating the Reformist Front and the parliament's “Hope” faction on Monday, IRNA reported.

Kavakebian said reformists are looking into the matter and pleaded with the Oversight Board of Guardians Council, which has the last say in electoral affairs, to uphold the law and impartially protect the rights of all candidates.

The 11th round of parliamentary elections will be held in February 2020, in which candidates will compete for 290 seats. The council is in charge of vetting candidates seeking public office, Financial Tribune reported.

Kavakebian is not the only member of the reformist camp raising concerns about how the relevant bodies are handling electoral affairs, especially against the backdrop of recent protests following a sharp increase in gas prices—a sign of the growing disenchantment with the government due to its failure to adequately address people’s economic woes.

 

 

Concerns Over Voter Turnout 

Azar Mansouri, a top official of the Reformist Policymaking Council, took to Twitter to point to the mass disqualification of reformist-minded parliamentary candidates, cautioning against the foreseeable low voter participation numbers and wondered if even a semblance of democracy could be preserved in the February election.

Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari, a member of Reformist Policymaking Council, said, "It is a given that we cannot participate in the Majlis election if we don't have any nominees. This is a rational statement and leaves no room for alternative interpretation.” 

Lari, a former interior minister, believes the mounting pressures on the reformist camp are unprecedented.

Mohammad Reza Aref, chairman of the pro-reform Hope faction in parliament, is taking a more optimistic approach, saying the reformists' remarkable capacity for winning despite unjust treatment has always been "a form of art".

Expressing disapproval of the way the recent protests were dealt with, Aref called for making amends to those who suffered in last month's demonstrations. 

 

 

Building on Past Victories 

To tackle these obstacles, the reformist camp is resorting to successful practices that have proven rewarding in the past. 

Their outstanding parliamentary election victory in 2016 wherein they won all 30 seats in the highly influential Tehran constituency was the direct result of a coalition formed after top reformist figures threw their weight behind one single list of candidates for the public to vote for. 

To alleviate the widespread apathy among voters disappointed with the performance of their representatives in the past four years, the reformist party has decided to launch the Reformist Survey System to measure the pulse of its constituency.   

The proposal was formulated by the Union of Islamic Iran People Party. RSS is a website that allows reformists to vote on who gets to be included in this year's list.

Some see the initiative a last-ditch effort by reformist lawmakers to distance themselves from the embattled President Hassan Rouhani whose poor performance in his second term in office has come under fire from friends and foes alike. 

 

Iran Guardians Council Candidates Reformists parliamentary election Rights watchdog safeguard Electoral executive boards disqualify reformist candidates