TEHRAN, 20 Dec 20 (IPS) With one week to the end of registration of candidates to the next Iranian Majles, or Parliament more than 8,000 people have signed up for candidacy to the 290-seat single House, the official news agency IRNA reported Saturday.

The elections for the seventh Majles under the Islamic Republic are scheduled for 20 February 2004, a race that many observers of Iranian political scene predicts a defeat of the reformist camp and a low turn out by the electorate, mostly the young voters, staunchly opposed to the ruling conservatives and disillusioned with the reformists who, under the leadership of the lamed President Mohammad Khatami, have failed to carry out their promised political, economic and social reforms.

Analysts say though the Islamic Republic takes pride at organising elections for the Majles or the president regularly and the results are less fraudulent than in most third world nations, but they can in anyway be considered free and fair, as all candidates to any election must be approved by the conservatives-controlled Council of the Guardians that has the right to reject any candidate without providing open explanation.

President Mohammad Khatami presented a bill to the Majles last year aimed at curbing the Guardians’ exclusive and much denounced right to veto candidates.

Approved by the majority of lawmakers, the Bill was however rejected by the Guardians, who also refused another bill aimed at enhancing the powers of the president.

Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace also called for reform in the present electoral system, saying that Iranians wants "free and fair elections giving them the right to chose their candidates directly".

Quoting un-named source close to the Interior Ministry’s Elections Headquarters, IRNA said out of the 8.000 candidates, 2090 listed to run for the greater Tehran constituency that represents 42 seats at the Majles, now dominated by the reformists.

In the Capital alone, 1753 people have registered.

There are also 328 women and 21 others representing religious minorities officially recognised by the Constitution, namely the Zoroastrians, Jews, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians, with two of them women, the Agency said, adding that the list of the candidates was not complete.

The contenders had a weeklong deadline until Friday to register their names for the parliamentary race. ENDS IRAN ELECTION REGISTRATION 201203