More than 3 000 to contest Iran election

Tehran - A total of 3 444 vetted candidates are to run in elections next month to fill the 290 seats in Iran's parliament, officials said on Tuesday.

Another 1 200 people were rejected from the list "for various reasons, and others withdrew," said a spokesman for the Guardians Council tasked with overseeing elections in the Islamic republic, according to several media.

The March 2 vote will be the first nationwide poll in Iran since the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose victory opponents said was claimed fraudulently, sparking unprecedented protests.

Among those excluded by the Guardians Council - a panel of conservative jurists and clerics - were 33 members of the outgoing parliament, according to reports that did not identify them or their affiliations.

Another 228 MPs were allowed to run again for their seats.

Candidates have to be aged 30 to 75 and hold a master's degree or equivalent. They also have to be considered loyal to the constitution with its provision recognising supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran's ultimate authority.

The official campaign kicks off on Thursday and runs for a week.

In all, 48 million Iranians are being called on to cast ballots in one of 47 000 polling stations across the country.

Iran's current parliament is dominated by conservatives but they have been unable to gather behind a united party and will be spread across several different lists on election day.

Small reformist parties are to present a list in Tehran and put forward some candidates elsewhere in the country. The main reformist parties, though, have been banned and will not participate in the vote.

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