Contact the Green PartyFarsi linksFarsi newsFarsi platformEnglish home pageFarsi statementsFarsi home pageEnglish newsEnglish statementsEnglish platformEnglish links

Iranian politics: A family affair

When it comes to politics, Iranians like to keep it in the family.

TEHRAN, Iran, February 22, 2000 (BBC) -- The four leading contenders in the capital, Tehran, are the siblings of President Mohammad Khatami, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and two high profile reformist clerics Mohsen Kadivar and Abdollah Nouri.

Other candidates include former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, his daughter, nephew and brother-in-law.

Analysts estimate that a third of the top 30 contenders in Tehran have family links among the highest political echelons.

Part of the reason is the country's tightly-controlled political system.

All would-be candidates are vetted by the conservative Council of Guardians, which rejects anyone deemed too radical.

The reformists who do make it through are often those protected by strong family ties.

The Khatami clan

Leading the polls in the capital is the president's brother Dr Mohammad Reza Khatami, who is also married to the grand daughter of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian Revolution's late leader.

Dr Khatami, a surgeon who recently spent a year at a London hospital, entered politics in 1997 after his brother won his landslide victory.

But he was chosen to head the country's largest pro-reform group, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, over more experienced politicians.

Like his older brother, Dr Khatami is a quiet, thoughtful man, who is keen to improve ties with the West.

Completing the family line up is the president's nephew, Mohammad Reza Tabesh, a former Interior Ministry official, who has been elected in the Khatamis' hometown of Ardakan.

Family split

An altogether more surprising champion of the reform movement is the younger brother of Ayatollah Khamenei, who symbolises the rightwing camp.

Hadi Khamenei, a press adviser to the president, runs a liberal newspaper and his views got him beaten up by hardline vigilantes last year.

But his name protected him from getting eliminated from the elections by the Council of Guardians.

Analysts say that Mr Khamenei has also been able to use his name to woo voters by underlining his differences to his brother.

Losing votes

However famous family ties can also lose votes.

Former President Rafsanjani is struggling to stay in the race following a massive fall in popularity and has taken his daughter down with him.

''Her role as daddy's girl has lost her her seat,'' said one Iranian expert.

Faezeh Hashemi came second in Tehran in the last parliamentary elections and was among the most prominent pioneers of the reformist movement.

But she has recently been heavily involved in the election campaign for her father who has cosied up to the right.

However, the family will still have a couple of members in parliament.

Mr Rafsanjani's nephew Ali Hashemi-Rafsanjani and his brother-in-law Hossain Marashi have both won seats in the south-east, where the family comes from.

Dissidents

It is a sign of the major changes taking place in Iran that voters are turning their backs on establishment figures like Mr Rafsanjani in favour of the siblings of jailed dissidents.

Alireza Nouri was a little-known surgeon until he entered politics on the day his brother, the popular former Interior Minister Abdollah Nouri, was jailed for five years.

The elder Nouri had been tipped as the next parliamentary speaker until a clerical court imprisoned him for spreading ''anti-Islamic propaganda'' through his newspaper Khordad.

Mr Nouri's supporters believe his trial was politically motivated and many have voted for his younger brother in protest.

Another reformist, Jamileh Kadivar, is the sister of the dissident cleric Mohsen Kadivar, who is serving 18 months for ''insulting Islam''.

She is also the wife of Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, whom the conservatives have repeatedly tried to impeach.

Mrs Kadivar, a former press adviser to the president, insists: "I want people to vote for me because they believe I would make a good member of parliament."

But her name undoubtedly helps. During a recent campaign stop one student said she would get his support because her brother was ''a great hero''.