Iranian students call election boycott crisis not over
Wed Jan 28
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iran's main pro-democracy student group weighed into a bitter political stand-off, calling for a boycott of next month's parliament elections in protest over the mass disqualification of reformist candidates.
And dampening hopes that the Islamic republic could pull out of one of its worst political crisis amid intense government wrangling with hardliners, embattled President Mohammad Khatami (news - web sites) cautioned it was too early to say if an acceptable solution could be found.
A statement from the Office to Consolidate Unity (OCU) -- a coalition of pro-reform student groups -- dealt a symbolic blow to the president when it said voters should stay at home on February 20.
"Noting the fact that people's votes have no effect ... and that there is no possibility for fair and free elections, there is no justification for people to participate in these elections," the OCU said in a statement carried by the state news agency IRNA Wednesday.
Student activists, who last summer sparked a nationwide security alert when they led a series of anti-regime protests, represent one of the main driving forces behind the reform movement, put into power by a massive youth vote.
Their call for a boycott was seen as reflecting mounting frustration with the president, who has been widely criticised for being too weak in the face of more powerful conservatives.