AFP: Iranian political factions started campaigning on Thursday for next week’s legislative election, which is expected to see conservatives cement their grip on parliament. TEHRAN (AFP) Iranian political factions started campaigning on Thursday for next week’s legislative election, which is expected to see conservatives cement their grip on parliament.
Campaigning was officially allowed to start at midnight (2030 GMT Wednesday) ahead of the election on March 14, official media reported.
Reformists have complained that hundreds of their candidates have been disqualified in the pre-vote vetting process, effectively wrecking their chances of wresting back control of the 290 seat chamber from conservatives.
According to interior ministry figures, 4,476 candidates have been cleared to stand.
Iran’s Islamic leaders have urged a clean campaign and a high turnout to show Western enemies the country is unified at a time of mounting tensions over its controversial nuclear programme.
State television has in the last days been carrying interviews with prominent personalities, such as Olympic weightlifting champion Hossein Rezazadeh, urging voters to cast their ballots.
The authorities will be hoping to avoid a repeat of the 2004 election, where only just over half the electorate voted.
“The behaviour of the Iranian people in the elections will be against the expectations of American officials,” predicted Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi.
He also appeared to deny reports that the authorities were considering blocking the Internet on election day, describing such suggestions as “rumours”.
“We are seeking to develop communication and we are not supposed to be turning back the clock by cutting the Internet.”
But he also said that large posters showing pictures of candidates would not be allowed, in a change from previous election campaigns.
“The candidates can use their traditional methods for campaigning, except for putting up posters and tracts in public. They can use text messages, Internet and email.”
Although the campaign has only started now, there have already been lively and highly personal exchanges ahead of the vote.
These included an extraordinary website attack on the grandson of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had criticised the disqualifications. The authorities responded by shutting down the website and arresting its editor.