Human Rights Watch has announced that Iran’s ninth parliamentary elections are “grossly unfair” due to “arbitrary disqualifications and other restrictions.”

In a statement issued on Thursday, March 1, Human Rights Watch writes: “The voting for 290 parliamentary seats follows the disqualification of hundreds of candidates based on vague and ill-defined criteria, and opposition leaders are either barred from participating, serving unjust prison sentences, or refusing to participate in what they consider sham elections.”

According to statistics released by the Guardian Council, the supervisory body of the elections process, 1,130 of the 5,382 people who nominated themselves were disqualified. Thirty of the disqualified candidates are current MPs.

Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, says: “Iranian authorities have stacked the deck by disqualifying candidates and arbitrarily jailing key members of the reform movement,” adding that “there is no transparency surrounding the vetting and selection of candidates.”

The reformists have mostly boycotted the elections in protest against the closed political atmosphere and the establishment’s insistence on the continued imprisonment of reformist political figures and activists.

The Islamic Republic has severely clamped down on reformists and all opposition groups, especially since the presidential elections of 2009, when allegations of vote fraud in the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to mass street protests.

Joe Stork writes: “Almost three years ago, following contested presidential elections, millions of Iranians marched through the streets chanting ‘Where’s my vote?’ Today those words still reverberate, reminding us of the government’s determination to deny its people the right to decide their own future.”

Polls for the ninth parliamentary elections open on March 2 all across Iran.