"CHAMELEON" SPEAKER MEHDI KARROOBI GETS OUT OF THE RACE

TEHRAN 25 Feb. (IPS) Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karroobi, the Speaker of the outgoing Majles announced Wednesday his resignation from the race, telling journalists that he had run for the next Parliament despite the fact that he knew he would not succeed.

Mr. Karroobi was the thirtieth first candidate out of the 30 seats allocated to Tehran and odds were that he could be defeated in the second balloting.

His saga was a dramatic remake of the position former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani faced four years ago when he run for a seat from Tehran, expecting to get the first seat and become the Speaker, but the voters dealt him a humiliating blow by placing him in a balloting situation.

The Council of the Guardians did its best to "push" him among the 30 candidates of the Capital having received enough votes to go to the House, but observers opposed it and Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani decided not to continue, his image badly tarnished and prestige seriously affected.

In a brief statement, Mr. Karroobi, who is one of the leaders of the pro-reform Association of Combatant Clergymen (ACC) to which also belongs the lamed President Mohammad Khatami said he did not want to run, but was persuaded against by both friends and foes, including Mr. Khatami.

Explaining Mr. Karroobi’s dramatic decision, Mr. Alireza Noorizadeh, an independent Iranian journalist said he (Mr. Karroobi) had "no other choice but to leave the race, being certain that even if elected in the second round, he would have to let his seat to (Mr. Qolamali) Haddad Adel", Tehran’s first candidate by the number of votes.

Like other Iranian political analysts, Mr. Noorizadeh also gave the outgoing Majles’ Speaker, dubbed by Iranians "the chameleon" as a "great Looser" of the 20 February parliamentary elections, observing that "his time as an intermediary and go-between" among the ruling conservatives and the powerless and inefficient reformists "was finished longtime ago".

"In a way, he is more a victim of Khatami than Khameneh’i", he said, adding that besides the President, the leader also had requested Mr. Karroobi to run in the race "in order to give the elections a semblance of normality".

In fact, following the mass disqualification of reformist candidates by the Council of the Guardians, including more than 100 lawmakers, among them Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the first vice-Speaker and leader of Islamic Iran Participation Front and some other pro-reform groups and organizations that controlled the sixth Majles decided to get out of the race, while, on insistence from both the President and the leader, other parties, like the ACC, forming the Second Khordad Coalition, Mr. Khatami’s power base decided to take part in the elections, thus breaking up the whole of the Coalition.

"The outcome of the elections, which was known before the voting, not only finished off the reformist movement, but also the ACC", Mr. Noorizadeh said.

However, according to the latest figures released by the Interior Ministry, of the 1.965.666 votes counted in Tehran and suburbs that has more than 6 millions eligible voters, Mr. Haddad Adel, the leader of the conservative minority at the outgoing Majles and the husband of Mr. Khameneh’i younger daughter received only 871.821 votes, followed by the former Labour Minister Ahmad Tavakkoli, getting762.888 votes.

The conservatives, among them three women in Nafiseh Fayyaz Bakhsh, Laleh Eftekhari and Fatemeh Alia took 27 out of Tehran’s 30 seats, leaving 3 places to be filled in the second round of elections, to be held in two weeks time. ENDS ELECTIONS KARROOBI 25204