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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 12:28 GMT
How Iran votes
Iranian parliament
Reformists dominate the Iranian parliament but have been foiled by conservatives
Iranians go to the polls on 20 February to elect a new parliament. Like previous elections, the battle is expected to be an ideological one between the elected reformists and the largely unelected hardliners who dominate the important institutions of the state.

The reformists form a majority in the parliament and are led by President Mohammad Khatami, the hardliners control the judiciary, armed forces and constitutional oversight bodies such as the Council of Guardians. The hardliners, or conservatives, are led by Ayatollah Khamenei, who is the ultimate decision-maker and Supreme Leader.

How do Iranians vote and what parties are standing for the elections? Click on the following to find out more.


Elections are held every four years. Anyone over the age of 15 has a right to vote. There are 46 million eligible voters. This time 290 seats are being contested.

Constituencies are allocated seats according to their size. Tehran, for example, currently has 30 seats.

Five seats in the parliament (majlis) are reserved for Iran's religious minorities: Zoroastrians (one), Jews (one), Assyrian and Chaldean Christians (one), Armenians (two).

A candidate must be aged between 30 and 75. The list of other criteria is as follows:

  • Commitment to Islam (unless they are standing for a seat allocated to religious minorities) and the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Iranian nationality
  • Commitment to absolute rule by the Supreme Leader
  • University degree or equivalent
  • Good reputation in the constituency
  • In good physical health

    Potential candidates are screened by the conservative-dominated Council of Guardians, who can disqualify those it deems unacceptable.

    In the screening process for the outgoing parliament many candidates were deemed ineligible because of a supposed indifference to Islam and to the constitution. Some have also been accused of questioning the powers enjoyed by the supreme leader. Critics say the process has become a means by which the Council eliminates rivals.

    Candidates register without stating their party affiliation but can be supported by any of the legal political groups. If not, they will stand as an independent.

    Political groups issue their own lists with their favoured candidates. In the weeks leading up to polling day, like-minded groups try to draw up joint lists to prevent fragmentation of their vote in the first round.

    Women were given the right to vote and to stand in elections in 1962. They have played a key role in the reform movement, hoping to gain greater political and social freedom.

    Conservatives also claim women have made great strides since the revolution in 1979. They say there are no restrictions on women holding jobs, including in government.

    There are 11 women in the outgoing parliament.

    In the current elections, 806 women and 7,338 men originally put their names forward as candidates. This number will be reduced after the screening by the Council of Guardians.

    Campaigning is for one week only and ends 24 hours before polls open.

    Candidates and their supporters are barred from:

  • Using government and public resources for campaigning, including radio and TV
  • Attaching pictures or other campaign material to buildings or objects such as post boxes, telephone booths or electricity poles
  • Attacking other candidates

  • Final list of candidates posted after completion of vetting process: 10 February
  • Election campaign period: 12-18 February
  • First round of elections: 20 February
  • Second round: date determined after announcement of first round results

    Outgoing parliament
    Reformists swept away the previously conservative-dominated parliament during the last parliamentary election in February 2000.

    According to a Netherlands-based site which collates data on elections worldwide, the breakdown of the new majlis was: 189 reformists, 54 conservatives, 42 independents, 5 from religious minorities.

    Other estimates have put the number of conservatives in the chamber at between 70 and 80.

    Parties and groups
  • Militant Clergy Association: secretary-general Mohammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani

  • Islamic Coalition Party: secretary-general Habibollah Asgarowladi

  • Association of Islamic Revolution Loyalists: secretary-general Hasan Ghaffuri-Fard

  • Moderation and Development Party: secretary-general Mohammad Baqer Nowbakht

  • E'telaf-e Khedmatgozaran-e Mostaqel-e Iran: spokesman Emad Afruq
  • Iranian Nation's Welfare Party: secretary-general Khalil Ali Mohammadzadeh

    In 1999, 18 political groups announced the formation of the 2 Khordad Front (23 May Front, a reference to the date of President Khatami's election in 1997). The aim was to adopt a unified strategy and to field the greatest number of joint candidates in the 2000 elections.

    It includes:

  • Militant Clerics Society: secretary-general Mehdi Karrubi (outgoing majlis speaker)

  • Islamic Iran Participation Front - secretary-general Mohammad Reza Khatami, outgoing deputy majlis speaker, president's brother

  • Executives of Construction Party: secretary-general Gholamhoseyn Karbaschi, former mayor of Tehran

  • Society of Forces Following the Line of the Imam: secretary-general Hadi Khamenei (supreme leader's brother)

  • Organisation of the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution: secretary-general Mohammad Salamati

  • Islamic Labour Party: secretary-general Abolqasem Sarhadizadeh, outgoing deputy for Tehran

  • Workers' House: secretary-general Alireza Mahjub, outgoing deputy for Tehran

  • Islamic Iran Solidarity Party: secretary-general Ebrahim Asgharzadeh

    There are also a few, small groups within the "New reformist front" and a few opposition groups.


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