Iran General News3,000 Iran election hopefuls banned

3,000 Iran election hopefuls banned

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Press Association: About 3,000 prospective candidates have been disqualified from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran. The Press Association

About 3,000 prospective candidates have been disqualified from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran.

Most of them are reformists seeking democratic changes within Iran’s hardline ruling Islamic establishment.

The mass disqualification of the candidates removes the biggest rival to hardliners – including those allied with embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – vying for the parliament seats in the crucial March 14 election.

The elections are seen as a key test of President Ahmadinejad’s hold on power and a signal for the 2009 presidential elections.

The president has come under increasing criticism – from both allies and opponents – about his failure to fix Iran’s economic problems, which have most recently led to heating gas shortages.

The announcement provoked widespread condemnation from reformists, with former president Mohammad Khatami saying the government had no right to deprive Iranians of the right to run in elections.

Hardest hit in the vetting process are the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran’s largest reformist party, and the Islamic Revolution Mojahedeen Organisation, another reformist faction.

Many of those disqualified were key lawmakers or cabinet ministers during the tenure of Mr Khatami, who is a reformist.

The hard-line constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, will announce a final list of approved candidates on March 5, leaving only a week for campaigning.

Ali Reza Afshar, a top interior ministry official in charge of elections, said those disqualified have the right to appeal.

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