Khatami: Referendum can end Iran's election crisis

TEHRAN, Iran – Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has called for a nationwide referendum on the legitimacy of the government to end the country's post-election crisis.

Khatami's proposal was reported by several reformist Web sites on Monday.

He said Iranians have lost their faith in the ruling political system following the June 12 election. The opposition charges that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election through mass fraud.

"Durability of order and continuation of the country's progress hinge on restoring public trust," Khatami, a popular reformist, said, according to the Web sites. "From the start, we said there is a legal way to regain that trust. I openly say now that the solution to get out of the current crisis is holding a referendum."

It is too early to say whether Khatami's call for a referendum would be adopted by authorities, but it constitutes the latest challenge to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader who has the last word on state matters. Khamenei has declared the results of the elections valid.

Under Iran's constitution, a referendum has to be ordered by Khamenei himself. All popular votes in Iran are monitored by an oversight body called the Guardian Council. Khatami, however, proposed that a neutral body, such as the Expediency Council, should monitor the proposed referendum instead.

Reformists have accused the Guardian Council of openly supporting Ahmadinejad in the election dispute.

The Expediency Council is a powerful clerical body that arbitrates disputes between the legislature and the government. It also advises Khamenei.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi claims he won the June 12 election, saying official results showing a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad are fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of Mousavi's supporters have staged street protests to denounce the results.

At least 20 protesters have since been killed and hundreds detained in clashes with security forces.

A chameleon clings to a tree stump on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. AFP/Sam Panthaky