By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
Iran's powerful election vetting body, the Guardian Council, has decided to allow hundreds more candidates to take part in a parliamentary election this month, in a move that has rekindled the hopes of reformists and moderates.
A power struggle between Iranian conservatives and reformists has intensified since the removal of international economic sanctions against Tehran following its nuclear deal with the West.
Hardliners fear Iranian voters will now be more inclined to reward reformist candidates.
Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a close ally of Iran's moderate President Hassan Rouhani, welcomed Saturday's decision.
"The good news for the disqualified candidates is that 25 per cent of them have now been allowed to run in the election ... so we will experience a competitive election in February," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
In a setback for Rouhani and Rafsanjani last month, the Guardian Council, composed of clerics and jurists, had excluded thousands of parliamentary hopefuls and four-fifths of candidates for the body which chooses Iran's next Supreme Leader.
But the Council said on Saturday it had approved an extra 1500 parliamentary candidates for the election.
It was still looking into complaints from candidates disqualified from standing for the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which will pick a replacement for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran's ILNA news agency reported on Saturday that Rafsanjani's son and daughter of Rafsanjani, Mohsen and Fatemeh, both considered reform-minded, were still barred from running.
Last week Rafsanjani, who was Iran's president from 1989 to 1997, criticised the disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates and accused the Guardian Council which has close ties to Ayatollah Khamenei, of eliminating rivals.