Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Iranian candidates register for March vote

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TEHRAN: Candidates began registering on Saturday for Iran’s parliamentary elections in March, the first litmus test of the clerical establishment’s popularity since the 2009 disputed presidential vote.

Candidates started to sign up in over 1,000 constituencies to run for parliament’s 290 seats, state radio said.

Registration will last one week after which entrants will be screened for their political and Islamic qualifications by the hard-line Guardian Council electoral watchdog.

Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidential election in 2009 and reformist challengers Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi called the result a “dangerous charade” and thousands of protesters clashed with police.

That election, which was followed by eight months of anti-government street protests, created a deepening political rift among the hard-line rulers.

Mousavi and Karoubi have been put under house arrest since February and the judiciary has banned main reformist political parties since the vote, which the opposition said was rigged.Analysts say Ahmadinejad’s allies want to secure a majority in the parliamentary elections, which they hope will pave the way for winning the presidential vote in 2013.

Leading reformist politicians said pro-reform groups will not submit a separate list of candidates because basic needs of a “free and fair” vote have not been met. Authorities are concerned a low turnout would question the establishment’s legitimacy.

Parliament does not determine policy in areas such as Iran’s disputed nuclear programme, oil or foreign affairs.

However, it has an influence on economic policy.Conservatives are expected to retain control of the next parliament, but the assembly is expected to be more vocal in its criticism of Ahmadinejad’s economic management with an increased number of critical hard-line members.

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani is a staunch critic of Ahmadinejad who is under mounting pressure from the public, top clerics and the outgoing assembly mainly over his handling of economy.

Frustration is simmering among lower- and middle-class Iranians. Prices of most consumer goods have risen substantially and many Iranians struggle to make ends meet. (Reuters)

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