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Iran election: 1,300 candidates withdraw at last minute

Mass withdrawal day before election leaves average of 17 candidates vying for each seat in parliament
Iranians walk past campaign posters for parliamentary candidate Mohammed Saeed Hosseini (AFP)

More than 1,300 candidates have pulled out of Iranian parliamentary elections taking place on Friday.

The figure represents more than one in five of the 6,200 registered candidates, with many of those who withdrew apparently urging voters to back the main political lists instead.

The head of the interior ministry's election headquarters, Mohammad Hossein Moghimi, said on Thursday that 4,844 people would now contest the 290 seats for parliament, meaning 1,385 candidates had withdrawn.

Polls will open at 7.30am on Friday and are scheduled to close at 5.30pm, but voting could be extended if required, Iranian media quoted him as saying.

His comments followed a state television appearance late on Wednesday by Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli who revealed the fall in numbers.

"About 17 people [are now] competing for each parliamentary seat," Fazli said.

"Ten percent of the total candidates are women," he added, a figure that amounts to a cut of about 100 female candidates, leaving about 500 still running.

Iranian politics is dominated by factions rather than political parties and Friday's election will see conservatives up against moderates and reform-minded candidates on a series of lists.

A pro-government "List of Hope" comprising moderates and reformists is supporting President Hassan Rouhani, a centrist who will be hoping that his allies make gains against conservatives.

The main conservative list is headed by Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel, a former parliament speaker, whose daughter is married to one of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's sons.

Election results from outside Tehran are expected within 24 hours of the close of polls, but the count in the capital, which has a population of 12 million and is electing 30 lawmakers, will take three days.

For the first time, voting will also take place on the same day for the 88 members of the Assembly of Experts, a powerful committee of clerics that will choose Iran's next supreme leader.

Fazli said the number of candidates in that ballot had also fallen, from 161 to 159.

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