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Presidential hopeful slams reformist papers' news blackout

Tehran, May 6, IRNA -- Presidential hopeful and member of the Tehran Islamic City Council Ebrahim Asgharzadeh said on Sunday that the news blackout imposed by reformist papers on his intention to run in the next presidential elections is not in the interest of Iran's reformist movement.

The presidential hopeful also criticized both the attempts to portray President Mohammad Khatami as a saint and his cabinet's four-year performance.

He also suggested that the reformist movement should not invest on a single candidate who is the incumbent president.

Talking to reporters after completing his registration, the former radical student leader who has become a strong advocate of reforms said that as a reformist candidate he will pose a serious challenge to President Khatami in this bid for re-election in the upcoming polls slated for June 8.

Expressing concern over the high possibility of his disqualification by the the electoral supervisory body of the Guardian Council (GC), the city councilor urged both President Khatami and the GC to prepare the ground for him to be declared as an approved candidate.

Meanwhile, Asgharzadeh's wife Tahereh Rezazadeh, an MP from Shiraz, who was accompanying her husband said that although she had a totally different view about her spouse's participation in the presidential race, she will continue her ultimate moral support to Asgharzadeh.

Asgharzadeh on Saturday had said that polarization of presidential elections between incumbent President Mohammad Khatami and the faction opposing him is not in the interest of the Islamic system.

Speaking at a press conference attended by foreign and domestic reporters, the reformist nominee said that although Khatami administration has benefited from an unprecedented backing of the Iranian nation but voters in the eighth presidential elections will have a different attitude.

The city councilor said that the presence of President Khatami in the race should not act as a barrier for other hopefuls. However, the former student leader admired the personality of President Mohammad Khatami.

Expressing concern over his possible disqualification by the electoral supervisory body of the Guardian Council (GC), the political activist who played a major role in the 1979 take over of the then U.S. Embassy in Tehran (known as the den of espionage) said he had had no other option but to take part in the upcoming presidential elections.

The five-day registration period for the eighth presidential elections, which began on Wednesday, will end on Sunday.

Defense Minister Shamkhani new presidential hopeful

Tehran, May 6, IRNA -- Defense Minister Vice-Admiral Ali Shamkhani stepped in as a new candidate for the next presidential elections, slated for June 8.

The defense minister went to the Ministry of the Interior on Sunday afternoon to personally register in the presidential race.

Following the completion of the registration procedure, Shamkhani declined to answer questions posed by reporters who were present at the State Electoral Headquarters at the Interior Ministry Building, but he left with them a text on why he has decided to run in the eighth presidential elections.

Shamkhani, 46, was born in the city of Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

Prior to his latest portfolio in President Mohammad Khatami's cabinet as defense minister, he had served in various military and revolutionary guard positions.

The five-day registration period for the upcoming eighth presidential elections, which began on Wednesday, will end on Sunday afternoon.

Up to Sunday morning 358 people had registered to run in the presidential race among them only a handful well-known figures.

Incumbent President Khatami on Friday added his name to the list of hopefuls. Before the start of the official registration, many political analysts contended that Khatami will easily win the race.

Former labor minister signs up for June presidential polls

Tehran, May 6, IRNA -- Former labor minister Ahmad Tavakoli on Sunday filed his elections bid for the June 8 presidential race, an IRNA correspondent witnessed.

"A goal behind my nomination is to win the people's confidence through standing against new wave of political opportunists," Tavakoli told reporters at the interior ministry.

50-year-old Tavakoli, a former MP who is close to the conservative camp, had earlier said he would run as an independent. He holds a doctorate in economics at the University of Nottingham in Britain.

Other prominent figures registered recently are Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, a leading figure in the 1979 U.S. embassy seizure, former MP Qassem Sholeh-Saadi, vice-president Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, a founding member of the centrist Executives of Construction Party. Hashemi-Taba has said he would run as independent for the eighth race.

Incumbent President Mohammad Khatami reluctantly announced on Friday he would stand for re-election, even though he is plagued by doubts over the future of his reforms which are opposed by the conservatives.

He is widely expected to win a second term despite repeated setbacks to his campaign for greater freedom and democracy. His conservative opponents seem to be at a loss to produce a heavyweight to challenge him.

Some 360 people have signed up to contest the presidency, but only a handful are expected to be cleared to run. Among the unlikely candidates are a street peddler and 22-year-old farmer-philosopher with shoulder-length hair.

Candidates have until Sunday to register for the crucial polls after which the election watchdog, the Guardian Council, is to screen candidates' qualifications within ten days.

Certified candidates are to start their election campaigns on May 19 up to June 6, that is, a total period of 19 days. The campaign period ends two days before the election day.

Under the country's elections law, a bona-fide candidate must be "a political figure, of Iranian origin, of the official state religion (Islam), faithful to the cause of the Islamic Republic."

Some 42 million Iranians are eligible to vote out of a population of 62 million.

In the first national presidential race in 1980, 124 people filed their intention to run but only 106 were certified.

In the second presidential election, the number of candidates who filed applications for candidacy trimmed down to 71. Only four were certified.

In the third presidential race, 46 people filed applications but only four were certified by the Guardian Council.

The number of candidates who filed applications stood at 50 in the fourth race, at 79 in the fifth race, at 128 in the sixth race and at 238 in the seventh race. Three were certified in the fourth race, two in the fifth race, four in the sixth race, and also four in the seventh presidential race.

Former military chief says not intending to stand in elections

Tehran, May 6, IRNA -- Mohsen Rezaei, the former chief of the elite Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, has said he is not intending to stand as a contender in the June presidential elections.

Press had already reported that he was considering to stand as a hopeful in the next presidential elections.

"I am waiting to see what plans (President Mohammad) Khatami has in mind" in order to decide on my participation, the Persian daily Aftab-e Yazd had quoted him as saying.

Rezaei told the students news agency ISNA that his recent statements were aimed to drive the political scene of the country out of deadlock.

"I wanted to attract the public opinion as well as the attention of political pundits to main issues of the elections so that they do not merely wait to see whether (President Mohammad) Khatami was participating (in the electoral race) or not," ISNA cited him as saying.

Rezaei recently blasted President Mohammad Khatami's silence over whether he will stand for re-election and accused him of misrepresenting the nation's unemployment numbers as well as growth rates.

Rezaei warned that if the moderate cleric tried to distance himself `from the people and from Islam, we will in turn distance ourselves from you'.

On Friday, Khatami put an end to months of speculations on his decision and registered as a hopeful in the next presidential elections.

Rezaei predicted that Khatami would face a myriad of problems if elected again, saying "increasing unemployment, widening state debts, insecurity, social corruption and drug trafficking as well as internal disputes inside the rulership" would be his main challenges in the next four years.

Khatami on Friday said he would have preferred not to run and instead "serve the nation and the people" in some other capacity.

"The origin of my doubts was the future, and concern about the future, of the revolution and the nation, and I am still concerned," the 57-year-old cleric said.

A record 357 candidates have registered so far for the June election and more are still expected to file their papers at the interior ministry before the registration closes on Sunday.

So far several prominent figures, among them city councilor Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, the dean of the Islamic Azad University Abdullah Jasbi, vice president and the head of Iran physical training organization Mostafa Hashemi-Taba as well as former Tehran MP Hassan Ghafouri-Fard, have stepped forward to pose a challenge to Khatami.

"The announcement of Khatami's candidacy Friday convinced me even more to play a more serious role in this election," the 46-year-old Asgharzadeh told reporters after filing his election papers.

Former labor minister Ahmad Tavakoli on Sunday handed over his nomination papers at the interior ministry.

Immediately after closure of the registrations, the 12-member oversight Guardians Council will start studying the record of the hopefuls and has five days to declare the names of the eligible candidates.

... Payvand News - 5/6/01 ... --

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