Iranians vote for new parliament

Published March 14th, 2008 - 11:30 GMT

Iranians voted Friday in elections likely to yield little change as conservatives and allies of the president are expected to retain control of parliament after many reformists were barred from running. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cast his ballots upon arrival from Dakar, Senegal, where he attended the 11th Summit of Organization of the Islamic Conference.

 

He arrived at the polling station while he was accompanied by First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi.

 

As polls opened, state radio urged a strong turnout so that Iranians could present a unified front to the West.

 

"Iranians will go to ballots to send a message to those who are not able to see unity of Iranians behind (the country's) achievements," it said, according to the AP. The Islamic republic's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast his vote at a religious center next to his residence in Iran.

 

Khamenei has said that Iranians should bring to parliament anti-U.S. candidates "whose loyalties are to Islam and justice."

 

Some 4,500 candidates nationwide are running for parliament's 290 seats in Friday's vote. But reformists say they don't have candidates in around 200 of the races after Iran's clerical leadership eliminated most of their top contenders.

 

An estimated 44 million Iranians of over 18 years of age are eligible to vote. Turnout is a key issue. In 2004 elections, which were swept by hardliners after most reform candidates were barred from the race, turnout was around 51 percent. In previous votes won by reformists, it was closer to 80 percent. 

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