Iran: Registration starts for parliamentary poll

Iran started registering potential candidates for the country`s March parliamentary elections.

Tehran: Iran on Saturday started registering
potential candidates for the country`s March parliamentary
elections, a vote that will be fought between supporters and
opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The country`s major reformist groups are staying out of
the race, saying they won`t field any candidates because basic
requirements for free and fair elections have not been met.

In their absence, the poll for the 290-seat assembly is
likely to pit hard-line candidates who remain staunchly loyal
to the country`s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against
conservatives who support Ahmadinejad.

Whatever the outcome, the vote is unlikely to change
Iran`s course. The country is a theocracy and Khamenei has
final say on all state matters.

The March 2 elections will be the first nationwide
balloting since Ahmadinejad`s disputed re-election in 2009,
which the opposition said was heavily rigged. That vote set
off months of near-daily protests, when hundreds of thousands
took to the streets in support of opposition leader Mir
Hossein Mousavi who they claimed was the rightful winner.

The wave of protests was the biggest challenge to Iran`s
clerical leadership since it came to power in the 1979 Islamic
Revolution. But a heavy crackdown suppressed the protests, and
many in the opposition, from midlevel political figures to
street activists, journalists and human rights workers, were
arrested. The opposition has not been able to hold a major
protest since December 2009.

For the March elections, the Interior Ministry is in
charge of the weeklong registration process, which started
today. All Iranian nationals between 30 and 75 years of age
who have "proven themselves to be loyal" to Khamenei are
allowed to run. Once submitted, candidacies have to be
approved by the hard-line constitutional watchdog, the
Guardian Council.

The council`s chief, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has
earlier said the reformists, whom he called traitors, need not
participate. His position was widely seen as an indication the
hard-line body would disqualify anyone perceived as a
reformist from running.


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