Election campaign starts ahead of Iranian parliamentary elections

Campaigning kicked off Thursday for this month's Iranian parliament elections, a vote that could see gains for supporters of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after widespread disqualifications of reformist candidates. Reformists have been hoping that widespread discontent over Ahmadinejad's failure to improve the flagging economy and reduce unemployment and inflation could boost their showing. But many of their candidates were among some 1,700 hopefuls that were barred from running by the country's constitutional watchdog, dominated by hardline clerics. Other would-be candidates have dropped out on their own, whether for personal reasons or out of anger at the disqualifications. Among them is Ali Eshraghi, a grandson Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's Islamic republic - Eshraghi was initially among those excluded, allegedly for not being loyal enough to the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution and hard-line interpretations of Islamic rule, and he was later reinstated, but then he announced his withdrawal, without giving a reason.