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Campaigning Gets Underway for Iranian Election - 2004-02-12


Campaigning has officially begun in Iran, for an election reformists say is rigged to give conservatives a majority in parliament.

The campaign for parliament's 290 seats officially got underway at midnight Wednesday (local time). The state news agency, IRNA, says nearly 35,00 polling booths will be set up in the Tehran voting district, and thousands more in other areas for next Friday's election.

More than 56,00 mostly conservative candidates are running on platforms proclaiming their loyalty to Iran's Islamic principles and system of government.

But missing from the election will be more than 2,000 pro-reform candidates who were disqualified by the powerful Guardian Council. The decision to prevent them from running sparked a political crisis that prompted the resignations of more than 120 reformist members of parliament.

President Khatami has said the poll will go ahead as scheduled, but warned yesterday on national television that blocking the demands of voters, especially the young, would lead to frustration and could turn people against Islam.

Some analysts have predicted voters disillusioned with the slow pace of reform and the disqualification of candidates may not turn-out to the polls -- which could help conservative candidates.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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