their lives by the religious authorities.
The Islamic conservatives who, by law, have veto power over whatever elected officials do, are attempting to insure that reformers do not win another national election. They are doing this by banning reformers from running. The Guardian Council (of senior Islamic clerics) has the power to approve, or disapprove, anyone running for office. Reform candidates who seem likely to win are being banned for being "unislamic." As a result, the largest reform party said it will not participate in the February 20 national elections. Earlier in the week, nearly 40 percent of the members of parliament resigned to protest the attempt by the Islamic conservatives to rig the elections.
The conservatives, responding to all this, have offered to let some of the reformers run. This offer was refused, but it does show that the conservatives are aware of the fact that, without reformers in parliament, they are more likely to be in the streets, or up in the hills with guns. Elections over the last decade have shown that about 75 percent of the population backs the reformers, and are getting increasingly frustrated with the Islamic conservatives inept and destructive monopoly on political and economic power.
There have already been a growing number of "unauthorized" demonstrations and riots by reformers, or just fed up Iranians striking out at the Islamic conservatives. So far, none of these actions has gone far. But that's because the Islamic conservatives have organized their own special "anti-demonstration" forces. These guys are tough, young country boys who believe in Islamic conservatism. They don't use guns, and just lay in with fists and clubs. The Islamic conservatives have shut down any media that reports on these clashes, but the word gets out via telephone and Internet. The Islamic conservatives appear to be getting nervous that one of these street clashes will escalate and start a nationwide movement.