Iranian centenarian stands in local elections

Iranian election hopeful Feizollah Fathi says he is 107 years old Image copyright khabarone.ir

A man surprised election officials in northwestern Iran when he turned up to register as a local council candidate and announced that he is 107 years old.

Feizollah Fathi told the Divandarreh County election board that he wants to run for the three-member council in his home village of Panjeh Sofla in order to "serve the people and highlight their problems", the Khabarone news site reports. This zeal for change extends to his 73-year-old wife Jahan Abdollahi, who has decided to run for office too.

Mr Fathi was ushered in to meet local Governor Jaafar Tavan, who clearly saw this as an opportunity to raise national media awareness of Divandarreh. "The problems our village face are quite obvious to me, and have forced people to leave for neighbouring towns," Mr Fathi told the governor, and urged more people to stand for local councils in order to help develop rural areas, ISNA news agency reports.

Mr Tavan assured him that "local councils act as a bridge between the people and the authorities, and play a significant role in eliminating rural poverty". The governor even managed an interview with the official IRNA news agency, in which he praised the number of local people standing in the 19 May elections, which coincide with the presidential elections in Iran. Mr Fathi and all others who registered will be vetted by the authorities before being allowed to stand.

A total of 287,425 people have registered for the local elections nationwide, which Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asghar Ahmadi says is 14% up on four years ago, ISNA reports. He told reporters that there are 1,889 candidates aged over 75, of whom the oldest, who registered along with his wife, is 101 years old. This suggests that Mr Fathi's exact date of birth is, like many in early 20th century Iran, not entirely certain.

Nonetheless, his decision to stand for the council has won him much admiration on social media. "Now that's the spirit!" declares one Facebook user. And there are signs that Mr Fathi may be starting a trend, as Governor Tavan says 96-year-old Abbas Amani has also asked to stand as a candidate. The electronic registration system broke down at that point, but the electoral authorities hope to have it fixed soon, the Baharestaneh.ir news site reports.

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