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Iran poll with thousands barred from standing

Iran’s parliamentary elections were thrown into turmoil after thousands of potential candidates were excluded from standing.
The elections, due to take place on Feb. 21, will be the first test of the government since protests erupted across the country in the aftermath of the downing of a Ukrainian airliner by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in January.
Iran’s hard-line Guardian Council, which oversaw the vetting process for applicants seeking to take part in the week-long campaign, on Thursday blocked 6,850 people from standing, as well as a third of the country’s current lawmakers seeking re-election.
Around 14,000 applications were made to the council. Of Iran’s 83 million population, almost 58 million are eligible to vote.
“The 7,150 candidates who are running for parliamentary elections have started campaigning,” Iranian state TV reported on Thursday.
Many of those barred from standing are said to be moderates, with some claiming none had been allowed to stand in some towns and districts altogether.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, himself a moderate, criticized the disqualifications by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council, claiming citizens, not the council, should have “the right to choose” their parliamentarians.
However, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed the council, saying that in the current climate, the country’s parliament could not host those “unafraid” to speak out against “foreign enemies.”
The Guardian Council has also sought to justify a number of its decisions, claiming various parties had been disqualified from standing over “corruption” or “unfaithfulness to Islam.”
Both Rouhani and Khamenei have called for a high turnout, despite their differing stances on the council, as a response to the ramping up of tensions between Tehran and the US.

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