Saturday, May 28, 2005

Ex-education minister to run for Iran presidency

Iran's former higher education minister agreed on Saturday to stand for president as a liberal candidate but may have lost the support of pro-reform students whose rights he has vainly tried to defend in the past.

Mostafa Moin was originally banned from running in next month's poll by a hardline constitutional watchdog, but he was reinstated at the insistence of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on all state matters. READ MORE

This created a debate among reformists on whether Moin should run in the June 17 poll.

Iran's largest student group, often the spearhead of the reform movement, said Moin should not fall into the trap of obeyeing edicts issued by Khamenei, which it argued had violated human rights in the past.

But Moin, 54, a former doctor, agreed to run for president at a meeting of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran's largest reformist party.

"I am entering the race to defend the rights of the silent majority," said his statement, read out at the party meeting by Elaheh Kulai, a former reformist lawmaker.

Moin has strongly condemned crackdowns on reformist students by police and religious paramilitaries. He resigned from President Mohammad Khatami's government in 2003.

Most political analysts and polls suggest he will win few votes because eight years of reformist government failed to push through tangible social and economic change.

In the latest poll printed in Iranian newspapers he trailed four conservative candidates. Leading the polls is former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.