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Iranian Elections: Concerns Linger As Hardliners Control The Process

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The chairman of the Election Headquarters for Tehran has announced that 3,898 candidates will compete for 30 parliamentary seats in elections in the capital on March 1.

Speaking to the state-owner ISNA agency, Abbas Johari, who is also a top official at the interior ministry, did not mention that no Reformist candidates or even well-known conservative figure are among the nearly the nearly 3,900 candidates whose qualifications have been approved by the ultraconservative Guardian Council.

The interior ministry and the constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, have rejected most regime politicians who do not belong to the ultraconservative and hardliner faction currently controlling the legislative and executive branches.

By announcing such unusually high numbers of candidates, the regime wants to present an aura of democracy, while it is clear to voters that the elections are not competitive.

Johari said that the candidates whose qualifications have been endorsed are allowed to campaign only between 22 to 28 February. February 29 is the no-campaign day, and the voting will take place on March 1, he said.

Abbas Johari, the chairman of the Election Headquarters for Tehran

Many political groups including the Reform Front, an umbrella organization of more than two dozen reformist parties, have announced that they will not take part in the election in Tehran, describing it as non-competitive and not free and fair.

Nonetheless, the Iranian press reported on Friday that former President Hassan Rouhani will present a list of 16 candidates for the Majles election. His political party, the Moderation and Development Party, had announced earlier that not enough of their candidates have been approved to run, so that the party could not provide a list of 30 candidates. The party’s spokesman said that Rouhani is still working to find 16 eligible candidates for his list.

According to Johari, campaigning for the Assembly of Experts election, on the same date, started on Thursday adding that 26 candidates will compete for Tehran’s 16 seats at the Assembly, which has 88 seats all together.

Meanwhile, the election headquarters announced on Friday that only 49 out of 107 candidates for the Assembly of Experts have been disqualified by the Guardian council. In another development it was announced on Thursday that apart from the candidates disqualified in Tehran and other Iranian cities, 35 other candidates from various cities have withdrawn their candidacy to allow younger candidates to compete. The Assembly has the constitutional task to select Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s successor in the event of his passing.

Concerns about biased and unfair disqualifications and irregularities during the election and vote count exist even in the ultraconservative camp that seemingly in in control. Mohammad Nazemi Ardakani, an ultraconservative candidate, who served as a cabinet minister in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration in the early 2010s, has expressed concern about the Interior Ministry’s ability to hold a healthy and fair election. He expressed concern that the organizers of the election might behave in a biased way.

He said that the Interior Ministry has conducted a poll about participation in the upcoming election, but if the ministry publishes the outcomes of the poll, it might adversely affect the people’s attitude toward the turnout.

The Ministry’s poll results were published in late January in only one Iranian newspaper, Jomleh , and indicated that the turnout in Tehran is likely to be around 22 percent and the general turnout figure for the whole country is likely to be around 30 percent, which is even less than the previous parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, some reformist candidates have accused the Interior Ministry of exaggerating poll results under the influence of the ultraconservative Paydari party.