Sunday, January 06, 2008


Candidates sign up for Iran's March election

Sat Jan 5, 6:14 AM ET

Candidates began registering on Saturday for Iran's parliamentary election in March, which will pit conservatives who now dominate the assembly against moderates seeking a comeback.

State television said prospective candidates began applying to stand in the election for the 290-seat parliament throughout the Islamic Republic. Voting will take place on March 14.

The result will have no direct effect on policies such as Iran's nuclear plans, which are ultimately determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei under a system of clerical rule.

However, political analysts say it may influence the direction of debate.

Parliament is now dominated by the conservative Abadgaran faction, which broadly backed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's successful presidential bid in 2005. Since then, members of the group have often criticized his economic and other policies.

Reformists seeking social and political change who were trounced in the last election four years ago are seeking to make gains, as are more moderate conservatives also critical of Ahmadinejad's policies.

Critics blame the president for failing to curb inflation, which has risen to 19 percent, and for further isolating Iran internationally with speeches berating the West.

Iran is locked in a row over its nuclear program, which the West fears is designed to master technology that could be used to make atomic bombs. Iran denies any such aims.

Hopefuls must fill in a four-page application on an Interior Ministry Web site before going to the governor's office to complete the process, Iranian media reported.

Registration is due to last a week after which the clergy-based Guardian Council will start screening applicants for their political and religious qualifications.

Reformists regularly complain that the Council has disqualified many of their prospective candidates before previous elections, skewing the elections against them.

The final list of approved candidates will be announced on March 5. Candidates will then have one week to campaign.

(Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Dobbie)

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