TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian hard-liners reversed the disqualifications of 200 candidates in next month's elections and promised more would be reinstated, but the move announced Tuesday did not allay anger among reformists.
Liberal lawmakers vowed to continue daily sit-in protests at parliament until the Guardian Council (search), an unelected body controlled by hard-liners, reverses all the disqualifications.
The council's decision earlier this month to bar more than 3,000 potential candidates from running — including 80 pro-reform lawmakers — sparked a political crisis in Iran, as liberals denounced what they called an attempt by hard-liners to regain control of parliament in the Feb. 20 elections.
The council's move to reinstate candidates came after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search), intervened to ease the crisis and ordered members to reconsider the disqualifications.
"So far, we have approved some 200 people who had been disqualified. This trend will continue," said council member Abbas Kadkhodaei.
Kadkhodaei said in a statement on the council's Web site that the disqualifications were being re-examined on orders from Khamenei. The statement did not identify the reinstated candidates.
State media controlled by hard-liners say those disqualified failed to meet legal criteria. Most of the protesting lawmakers maintain they were disqualified because of their criticism of the unelected hard-liners in open sessions of the parliament.
Among those disqualified were some of the top leaders in parliament of the reform movement, which seeks to lift political and social restrictions under Iran's Islamic government. Hard-liners, who control unelected bodies that hold ultimate sway in the country, have stymied attempts at reform.
Khamenei chooses the Guardian Council's 12 members, and some reformist legislators have said the members would not have ordered the disqualifications without his approval.
Protesting lawmakers were not moved by the council's partial reversal Tuesday and planned to continue sit-ins in the lobby of Parliament.
"That they are reversing disqualifications is a positive step, but definitely not sufficient," Rajabali Mazrouei, one of the lawmakers barred from running for reelection, told The Associated Press.
"We don't think that a major breakthrough is developing. Either they have to reverse all politically motivated disqualifications or expect a boycott of the elections," he said.
On Saturday, reformist Deputy Interior Minister Morteza Moballegh, who is Iran's chief of elections, warned he would not allow the legislative elections to proceed unless hard-liners retracted their mass disqualifications. The reformist lawmakers holding sit-ins also began dawn-to-dusk fasts.
President Mohammad Khatami (search) has condemned the disqualifications and warned he might resign if they are not reversed.
The Feb. 20 elections are seen as a test for Iran's reformers, whose popularity has waned because of their perceived failure to deliver on promises of liberalization. Over 46 million Iranians are eligible to vote, more than 7 million of them young people just reaching the minimum voting age of 15.