TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian reformists Friday announced a coalition inspired by ex-president Mohammad Khatami to win back parliament and save Iran from the "crisis" they said was created by his successor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The coalition brings together 21 moderate parties, including the allies of ex-presidents Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Ranfsanjani, to fight conservatives in the legislative elections on March 14, officials said.
"The country is in serious crisis. All parties agree that they should restore the parliament's position and curb the government's inexpert activities," spokesman Abdollah Naseri said.
Officials said the guiding light of the coalition was Khatami, president from 1997-2005, who in recent weeks has broken two years of virtual political silence to lambast Ahmadinejad in a series of speeches.
"Khatami was behind this coalition. He is one of the pillars of consolidating reformists for the next election," another spokesman, Morteza Haji, told the news conference.
The coalition includes the largest reformist party, Islamic Iran Participation Front, and the Executives of Construction Party, founded by ex-cabinet members from the 1989-1997 presidency of the pragmatic Rafsanjani.
It is also joined by Khatami's party, the Association of Combatant Clerics, and the Organisation of Islamic Revolution Mojahedeen, whose members served as key lawmakers in the previous parliament.
The other major pro-reform party, the National Confidence Party, headed by former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, will have about 80 percent common candidates with the coalition, Naseri said.
Reformists, who had the majority in the previous parliament, are concerned about a repetition of the February 2004 polls, which suffered a low turnout and saw thousands of their candidates banned from standing by the conservative electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council.
"The Guardians Council cannot tighten the space in a way that a real competitive election does not take place," Haji said, referring to the powerful clerical body which vets all candidates running for public office.
He added that "Karroubi, Khatami and Rafsanjani are lobbying with high ranks of the Islamic republic to guarantee the health of the election and remind the council it is not to make decisions on behalf of people."
The reformist camp is banking on a high turnout, hoping that frustration with the government's economic policies will carry them to the March polls -- seen as crucial for the future political direction of the Islamic republic.
"The government has intensified most internal and international crises in the past two years because there is not a strong and watchful parliament," Naseri said.
"The back-breaking inflation is felt by people and will be a serious reason to vote," he said.
On March 14, reformists will be challenged by conservatives, who have formed a united front of their own, bringing together Ahmadinejad loyalists and major traditional conservative factions.
Following Khatami's 1997 presidential victory, reformists held a poweful position in Iranian politics before they started losing power to rival conservatives in 2002 in municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections.
They made a comeback in last year municipal polls, when they formed a similar coalition drawing up a unified list of candidates.
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