Iran More than 2,000 reformers seeking democratic changes within Iran's hard-line ruling establishment have been disqualified from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, a top interior ministry official said Wednesday.
The disqualification of reformist candidates removes challenges to hard-liners - including those allied with embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - vying for the parliament seats in the crucial March 14 election.
Parliamentary elections are seen as a key test of Ahmadinejad's hold on power and a harbinger for the 2009 presidential elections. The hard-line president has come under increasing criticism - from both allies and opponents - about his failure to fix Iran's economic problems, which have most recently led to heating gas shortages.
Out of an initial 7,200 prospective candidates registered, some 5,000 remain in the running, said Ali Reza Afshar, a top Interior Ministry official in charge of elections.
Afshar didn't rule out reversing some disqualified candidates, and he said that those disqualified have the right to appeal. The hard-line constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, will announce a final list of approved candidates on March 5.