NewsSpecial WireIran’s state watchdog bars candidates in run-up to key...

Iran’s state watchdog bars candidates in run-up to key polls

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Nov. 19 – Only 17 prospective candidates hoping to win a seat in a key constitutional body have passed an examination required of them to stand in the upcoming polls. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Nov. 19 – Only 17 prospective candidates hoping to win a seat in a key constitutional body have passed an examination required of them to stand in the upcoming polls.

A total of 493 religious figures have registered to stand in the December 15 polls to win a seat in the Assembly of Experts, said Abbas-Ali Kadkhodai, the spokesman for the Guardians Council, the religious theocracy’s highest vetting organ.

The 86-member Assembly of Experts is an exclusively clerical body entrusted with the task of selecting the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Many of the candidates were vetted out by the Guardians Council and at least 203 were asked to take a preliminary examination in order to qualify to stand in the polls.

The decision to hold an entrance exam did not go down well with many of the clerics. At least 133 candidates have since withdrawn their request to stand in the polls.

Of the 169 clerics who took the exam, between 17 and 19 managed to qualify, Kadkhodai said.

A total of 145 candidates have qualified to stand in the December 15 polls, he added.

With less than a month to go until polling begins, observers are calling the polls anything but democratic.

“There are 86 seats to be won. But, the number of successfully-screened contenders are less than twice that number. That means some constituencies have only one candidate standing”, said one Tehran-based political analyst who requested anonymity for fear of retribution.

“I think you can truly call this a mock election, since all that some candidates have to do to get elected is ballot a vote for themselves and they automatically become the de facto winner”.

Opposition activists have already begun encouraging the population to stay away from the polls. “Boycott the mullahs’ fiasco elections” is a graffiti slogan that has become a common sight on street walls in Tehran’s western suburbs.

Prominent names in the list of candidates are former President and current State Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, former chief nuclear negotiator with the West Hassan Rowhani, and radical Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi.

Assembly members are elected by the public to eight-year terms. Polling was last conducted in 1998. This year the elections will coincide with the country’s municipal elections.

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