- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

TEHRAN — Reformist lawmakers sat in angry silence while the hard-line minority in Iran's parliament approved two nominees yesterday for a powerful oversight panel, ending a dispute that blocked President Mohammed Khatami's inauguration.
With the nod from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the parliamentary-voting process was altered Monday night in a way that essentially made it impossible for the hard-line nominees to be rejected.
The dispute over the nominees for the Guardian Council highlighted the power that unelected institutions controlled by hard-liners wield over elected bodies filled with politicians seeking changes in Iran's Islamic rule.
Ayatollah Khamenei refused to allow the inauguration of Mr. Khatami, the reform movement's leader, until the candidates were confirmed.
The voting-rule change outraged reformist lawmakers, who hold a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Outmaneuvered, the reformist lawmakers sat silently while the hard-line minority in parliament voted to appoint two hard-line lawyers to the Guardian Council, filling the last two vacancies on the 12-member council.
The Guardian Council, whose broad powers include the ability to veto legislation, has provided hard-liners with a powerful weapon against reform.
In recent months, the council has thrown out all pro-reform bills approved by parliament.
Reformist lawmaker Ahmad Azimi said that the bulk of the parliament "resisted pressures and did not vote for hard-line candidates." But he said the decision to alter the voting rules was constitutional.
The rule change allowed the top two vote-getters to be appointed if the seats were not filled in a first round of voting that followed the usual majority rules.
The hard-line judiciary again offered up the names of four nominees whom parliament had rejected over the weekend.
As expected, the first round passed with none of the nominees winning a majority.

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