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Khatami to lead Iranian opposition in polls

world Updated: Oct 06, 2007 20:02 IST

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami will lead the opposition coalition in the country's March parliamentary elections, the cleric's brother told the Fars news agency on Saturday.

"As far as I know, he will not directly nominate himself but lead the (opposition) coalition," Mohammad-Reza Khatami of the reformist Islamic Participation Front said.

After the two defeats of the 2004 parliamentary and 2005 presidential elections, the reformist and moderate factions formed a coalition and hope to regain power in 2008.

The Iranian parliament is currently dominated by the Abadgaran (Reconstruction) party to which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is affiliated.

The new coalition is unofficially led by former presidents Khatami and Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and gained an initial victory in last December's Experts Assembly, imposing on Ahmadinejad the first setback since his presidency in 2005.

The parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 14, 2008, will this time also have international impacts due to the global crisis over Iran's controversial nuclear programmes.

A victory by the reformists would not only affect Iran's domestic and foreign policies but eventually also prepare ground to replace Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential elections.

The reformist-moderate coalition is however not as unified as Khatami and Rafsanjani would like and are divided between wings loyal to the Islamic system and those not fully acknowledging the political status quo and heading towards more secularism.

Although all political factions have a unanimous stance on Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology, the differences between the ultraconservatives and moderate-reformists are focused on internal and especially economic issues.

According to economic experts, Ahmadinejad has failed to implement his economic reforms in favour of low-income social classes and is held responsible for the high inflation and astronomic real estate prices.

Another issue is the voting age after Ahmadinejad voiced preference to revise last January's approval on changing the minimum voting age from 15 to 18 and return it again to 15.

There are also debates whether the vote counting should for the first time be computerized or be manual again.