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Source: AP News

Feb 22, 2024

Iran begins first election campaign since the 2022 mass protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Candidates for Iran’s parliament began campaigning Thursday in the country’s first election since the bloody crackdown on the 2022 nationwide protests that followed the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.


State television said 15,200 candidates will compete for a four-year term in the 290-seat chamber that hardliners have controlled for two decades.


That is a record number and more than twice the candidates who contested the 2020 election, when voter turnout was just over 42%, the lowest since 1979.


Amini died on Sept. 16, 2022, after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict headscarf law that forced women to cover their hair and entire bodies. The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers.


In the severe crackdown that followed, over 500 people were killed and nearly 20,000 arrested, according to human rights activists in Iran.


On Wednesday, the Guardian Council election watchdog sent the names of the 15,200 qualified candidates to the interior ministry, which holds the election. Any candidate for elections in Iran must be approved by the Council, a 12-member clerical body, half of whom are directly appointed by the supreme leader.


The candidates include 1,713 women, which is more than double the 819 who competed in 2020.


The election will be held March 1, and the new parliament will convene in late May.


Current parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf will run for election from his hometown, a constituency in the remote northeast, after winning a seat in the capital Tehran four years ago. Such a change in districts usually indicates shrinking popularity.


In recent years, his fellow hardline critics occasionally accused him of ignoring the rights of other parliament members and disregarding reports of corruption while he was Tehran mayor.


Incumbent assembly member President Ebrahim Raisi will seek reelection to the assembly in a remote constituency in South Khorasan province, competing against a low-profile cleric.


In a simultaneous election, 144 clerics will compete for the all-cleric 88-seat Assembly of Experts that functions as an advisory body to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters. Their term of service is eight years.


Under Iran’s constitution, the assembly monitors the country’s supreme leader and chooses his successor. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be 85 in April. He has been supreme leader for 34 years.



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