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Record number of candidates register for Iran election

Iranian state television said that almost 12,000 candidates, including more than 1,100 women, have registered for the country's February parliamentary election - the highest number since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

In the last parliamentary vote in 2012, more than 5,000 people were seeking mandates, but more than a third of them were disqualified, leaving around 3,400 candidates on polling day.

The number of women seeking office is more that triple the number from four years ago. Now, they account for 11 percent of the candidates for the 290 seats available in the February 26 vote, up from eight percent last time.

But the total number of hopefuls is expected to drop after the Guardians Council, an unelected judicial body, vets applications. The final list will be published on February 9, after the council is likely to disqualify several thousand candidates on technical and ideological grounds.

The qualification requirements for candidates include a Masters degree, as well as identification with the principles of the Islamic Republic.

President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in 2013, is hoping his supporters can take control of parliament and end years of dominance by conservative factions.

Rouhani has dedicated the first half of his four-year term to nuclear negotiations, which resulted in Iran's nuclear deal with major powers in July. Iran has vowed to restrain its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions slowing the economy.

'Challenge other power centers'

Counting on the popularity he has gained from the deal, Rouhani and some of his strong allies are hoping to win a majority in the parliament. They are also among the 801 people who have registered as candidates for the Assembly of Experts, an 88-seat clerical body that will select Iran's next clerical Supreme Leader. Voting for the Assembly of Experts will be held on the same day as the election.

Rouhani, who expects a re-election campaign in 2017, plans to devote the rest of his term to economic and social reforms.

"The upcoming election of the Assembly of Experts is probably one of the most consequential and important in the history of the Islamic Republic," Iran analyst Ali Vaez said in an interview with DW. "But the parliamentary election is also quite important, because it will set the stage for the presidential election in 2017."

"If President Rouhani and his allies gain the upper hand in the parliamentary elections, they will be in a better position to challenge other power centers and push forward their agenda," Vaez added. "But if the opposite happens, President Rouhani could become a lame duck for the rest of his term in office and might even lose the presidential election."

dr/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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