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12,000 file to run for seats in Majlis.

More than 12,000 people have registered to run for seats in the 290-seat Majlis next month--far more than double the number that sought seats four years ago and the largest number to file in history.

Among the major figures to file are two children of former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani--daughter Fatemeh and eldest son Mohsen. Fatemeh is one of the founding members of the Moderation and Development Party, the chief party backing President Rohani. Mohsen Hashemi ran the Tehran Metro System for 13 years until forced out by President Ahmadi-nejad.

Another son, Mehdi, is currently serving a 10-year prison term for a variety of crimes, including embezzlement and bribery. Another daughter, Faezeh, previously served in the Majlis and has completed a six-month jail term

Of course, the vast bulk of the candidates filing will be eliminated in the review process.

While the review process is used to keep ideologies that are disliked by the establishment from being presented to the public, most of those removed are clearly not equipped to run. Since all a person needs to do to file as a candidate is go to the Interior Ministry and fill in a firm, many people viewed as little more than street-sweepings file applications every election.

Consequently, the number of people who will be kept off the ballot is no indication of political shenanigans, although many critics of the regime in the West will quote the numbers as evidence of evil-doing.

The real political shenanigans are not revealed by the numbers. For example, four years ago, the 12-man Council of Guardians, which conducts the final review and approves the final list of candidates, allowed a large number of Reformists to run. However, the Council first removed the leading figures in the Reformist movement and then filled ballot slots with relative unknowns.

What approach the Council will use this year will not be apparent until after February 17, the date on which the list of approved candidates will be published.

That will be a mere nine days before Election Day on February 26, giving candidates very little time to introduce themselves to voters.

The regime has already started moving against the Reformists. Last Thursday, the Evin Prison Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Faraj Kamijani, a member of the Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, the body that is trying to put together a slate of candidates for the Majlis, distributing candidates across the country so that major candidates do not run against one another.

The Reformist website Kaleme said Kamijani was arrested at his office and his home was later raided.

The Reformists have already formed a national campaign organization, which has divided the country into 11 regions. Kamijani was in charge of one of the regions.

On the same day as the Majlis vote, the public will vote for members of the Assembly of Experts, the body that chooses a new Supreme Leader when that post falls vacant, something that has so far only happened once in the history of the Islamic Republic.

A total of 801 candidates filed to run for the Assembly, where the number of seats has been raised from 86 to 88. Sixteen women are among those who have filed to run. No women have ever been permitted to run for an Assembly seat before. All the current members are clerics.

A total of 12,123 signed up for the Majlis election, of which almost 12 percent or 1,434 are women. Only nine women are now Majlis deputies, comprising just 3 percent of the membership, one of the lowest proportions in the world.

To run for the Majlis, candidates must now have a master's degree. It wasn't clear if the registration staff checked educational records and eliminated those without a graduate degree, or if that will be left to the review process. Candidates are also required to support the principles of the Islamic Republic. It remains to be seen if support after the 2009 elections for losing candidates Mir-Hossain Musavi or Mehdi Karrubi will be used to disqualify candidates.

In the 2012 Majlis elections, 5,200 candidates signed up and a third were disqualified, leaving 3,400 candidates or an average of 12 per seat.
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Author:Nelson, Warren L.
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jan 1, 2016
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