Thousands of candidates approved for parliamentary elections in Iran have launched their campaigns on February 13 ahead of voting next week. This comes even after the Iranian authorities reportedly prohibited thousands of others from running including reformists and moderates. The elections on February 21 come amid the most heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington in the last four decades.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has slammed the disqualifications of parliamentary elections. However, earlier this week while addressing Iranians at country's 41st anniversary, he insisted that the citizens should turn out for the voting in huge numbers. According to international reports, the vote will be seen as a test of the apparently moderate and pro-reform bloc led by the Iranian President who has struggled to deliver his promises.
The current Iranian parliament which has 290 members, was elected in 2016 and has more than 100 reformists and moderates. However, rest of the chamber is reportedly split between independents and conservatives. Iran's constitutional watchdog which approves the candidates reportedly barred at least 9,000 people from 16,000 who had initially applied in December last year. Therefore, currently, 7,000 candidates will be running in the parliamentary elections.
After even more than 40 years since the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, the country's economy has crippled as a result of heavy sanctions by the United States. If a larger number of people turn out for the vote next week, it will reportedly be seen as the confidence in Iran's Shiite theocracy which the country has tried to showcase amid the crisis with US President Donald Trump's administration.
According to international reports, tensions with the US could further strengthen by reinforcement of long-embedded distrust of the Western countries. The relations between the two countries further degraded after American air raid near Baghdad's international airport killed General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on January 3, along with six others. The White House and the Pentagon confirmed the death of Iran's powerful military head by saying that the attack was directed by US President Donald Trump.
Iran in response bombed the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq that houses the US and coalition forces. According to reports, the US airbase was struck by multiple rockets during the wee hours of January 8. This incident was first reported by Iranian state TV, who described it as Tehran’s revenge operation over the killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Gen. Qassem Soleimani.