Middle East News
Polls in Iran end, vote pits conservatives vs Ahmadinejad
Mar 2, 2012, 21:33 GMT
Tehran - Parliamentary elections ended Friday in Iran after almost 16 hours, with counting to start immediately in the Interior Ministry in Tehran and governor's offices in the provinces.
The polls opened at 8 am (430 GMT) and were supposed to be closed at 6 pm (1430 GMT), but the Interior Ministry said that the huge turnout of voters at polling stations required a six-hour extension until midnight (2030 GMT).
According to state media, turnout was huge. Witnesses in several parts of the country could not confirm the state media reports.
The Interior Ministry, which has not given a date for the release of final results, said the process of counting votes has been partially automated.
Results from the provinces are expected to gradually come in on Saturday, with vote counts from the big cities, including the Tehran district, in the coming days.
The main outcome of the elections will be clarified after the results of the big cities, especially the 30 seats in the capital Tehran, are reported.
The rural areas do not have the political significance of the big cities, and results there do not show any clear trend.
The electioni pitted conservatives loyal to the religious establishment against supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
More than 3,400 candidates are competing for 290 seats in the legislature, with some 48.2 million eligible voters in the country of 74 million people.
Conservatives blame Ahmadinejad for poor economic policies and for having distanced his faction from the Islamist system with nationalistic slogans.
A reformist wing in the race is seen to have little support. The hard core of reformists, accused by the establishment of having turned into dissidents, have boycotted the polls, citing lack of freedom for all political parties.
The Iranian opposition through its websites urged voters to boycott the election.
'We call on all those believing in real freedom not to attend the elections to show that they are fed up of symbolic polls,' the Jaras opposition website said in an editorial.
The Kalame website of reformist leader Mir Hossein Moussavi said that Iranians should stay home out of solidarity with opposition leaders who are under house arrest - such as Moussavi and fellow reformist Mehdi Karroubi.
The outcome of the election is unlikely to change the basic policies of the Islamic republic or alter Tehran's uncompromising stance in its dispute with Western powers, who suspect Iran of attempting to build a nuclear weapon.
The election is a first test for Ahmadinejad since his re-election in 2009, in a poll overshadowed by allegations of fraud, which sparked street protests.
Ahmadinejad and his deputy, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, cast their votes in a mosque in southern Tehran but refrained from giving statements.
Ali Larijani, the top candidate for the conservatives and a fierce critic of Ahmadinejad, said he had no enmity toward his political rivals.
'Elections are for competition and not enmities, and whoever wins the polls should try to help developing the country,' Larijani said after casting his ballot.
His remarks were seen as an effort by the parliamentary speaker to play down his differences with Ahmadinejad over political and economic issues.
'Those who win the polls should serve the people and those who lose accept defeat,' Larijani said.
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