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Factbox: Iran's parliamentary election process

March 2, 2012 5:21 P.M. (Updated: March 3, 2012 11:13 A.M.)
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iranians voted on Friday in a parliamentary election that amounted to a contest between loyalists to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sidelined since a disputed presidential election in 2009, leading pro-reform groups did not take part in the vote because, they said, it was not "free and fair".

They were looking beyond this election to the presidential race next year instead.

Following are some facts about Iran's ninth parliamentary election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Candidate vetting

- Candidates for the 290-seat assembly were screened by government-run committees and the Guardian Council, a conservative body of clerics and jurists that checks hopefuls for commitment to Islam and their belief in the Velayat-e Faqih (religious system of law).

- After the vetting process, some 3,200 candidates were allowed to run out of 5,395 who applied to do so.

Campaigning

- Iran has no tradition of disciplined party membership or detailed party platforms. Two main groups, both conservative hardliners, have emerged but some candidates are backed by more than one group and allegiances often shift.

The main groups:

- THE UNITED FRONT OF PRINCIPLISTS: The biggest hardline group, encompassing loyalists to Khamenei. This group is supported by the clerical establishment's backbone -- the elite Revolutionary Guards, powerful bazaar merchants and influential clerics. It was expected to win the most seats. Hardliners label themselves "principlist" for their loyalty to the ideals of the Islamic Republic.

- THE RESISTANCE FRONT: Backed by Ahmadinejad supporters, who want the president to distance himself from the "deviant current" accused of trying to undermine the role of the clergy in the Islamic state. This group was expected to gain more support in smaller towns and provincial areas.

- THE NATION'S VOICE: This small group is composed of staunch hardline critics of Ahmadinejad.

- Independent candidates in some cities could attract more support as the vote in such places would depend on the reputation of candidates and personal contacts with voters.

The vote and the result

- There are about 48.2 million eligible voters, who must be over 18 years, in the country of 74 million people.

- All ballots will be counted manually so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.

A new parliament

- Parliament does not determine policy in areas such as Iran's disputed nuclear program, oil or foreign affairs. It has a bigger influence on economic policy.

- Loyalists to Khamenei were set to dominate parliament but legislators might be more critical of the president as factions jockey for position before the 2013 presidential race.

- The vote was being watched closely as it was the first nationwide election in Iran since the 2009 disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad that was followed by eight months of street unrest. Hardline rulers reject accusations by the pro-reform opposition leaders that the vote was rigged.
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