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Iran's Election Crisis Deepens; 109 MPs Resign - 2004-02-01


More than 100 members of Iran's Parliament -- over one-third of the entire chamber -- resigned today (Sunday) in protest against efforts to bar reformists from competing in next month's elections.

The resignations intensified the crisis over Iran's parliamentary elections, now less than three weeks away.

A total of 109 reformist lawmakers in the 290-seat Parliament handed in letters of resignation during a open session of the legislature today. The move came a day after Iran's Interior Minister (Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari) called for postponement of the February 20th elections, due to a decision by the country's conservative Guardian Council to disqualify more than two-thousand reformist candidates.

Eighty current members of the Iranian parliament (Majlis) are among those barred from taking part in the election.

The dispute has plunged Iran into its worst political crisis in years and has raised concern about the future of democracy in the country, which marks the 25th anniversary this month of the Islamic revolution that brought clerics to power in Tehran.

The legislators' resignations will make it difficult for Parliament to convene a valid session, since quorum require two-thirds of the membership to be present. Observers say the legislature's ability to work on such important issues as next year's budget could be serious affected.

Iran's Guardian Council, an appointed, 12-member body of conservative clerics and jurists, has veto power over the elected parliament. The Council has ruled that the candidates it banned lack the qualifications to stand for office.

Reformists, who hold a majority of the seats in the Majlis, accuse the conservative Council of trying to seize control of the legislature.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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