Conservatives Pull Ahead in Iran Vote

A03860311.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Early election results from small towns around the country suggest that conservatives are expected to win Iran’s legislative election.

As first results were announced, the authorities hailed a “glorious” participation of over 65 percent in Friday’s poll, far higher than the figure in the previous election in 2004.

Some tallies based on final interior ministry results, reformists had won eight seats out of the 40 announced so far and conservatives 16, with the rest going to independent candidates.

Results from smaller towns and cities were to be announced Saturday but those from Tehran — which will deliver 30 MPs to the 290-seat parliament — would not be announced for several days, officials said.

The main reformist coalition expects to win 44 of the seats, its spokesman Abdollah Nasseri told AFP.

If confirmed, this would mean that reformists have managed to keep their minority in parliament, where they currently have around 40 MPs.

According to FNA tallies, conservatives are set to reap 70 percent of the seats.

Over the past weeks, Iranians from different walks of life promised a high turnout in the elections, stressing that they intended to show Western countries that the Islamic Republic is unified at a time of tensions over its nuclear program.

“Fortunately and contrary to our expectations, the participation has been overwhelming,” Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi said. “There has been a good increase on the participation in the last parliamentary elections.”

Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, standing for conservatives in the holy city of Qom, was elected to parliament in a landslide victory with 76 percent of the vote.

“Our list nationwide has been welcomed by the people and this is a sign of the trust people have in the service of the Principlists,” spokesman for the main conservative coalition, Shahabeddin Sadr, told AFP.

Reformists enjoyed their high point between 2000-2004 when they controlled parliament and their champion Mohammad Khatami was president.

But they were left with only a few dozen seats in parliament after the 2004 elections and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over the presidency a year later.

Results from Tehran will be keenly awaited to see if conservatives or reformists would eventually win parliament seats for the capital as both groups have fielded full lists of candidates and competed evenly with each other.

Polls finally closed late on Friday night after being extended by several hours to cope with the number of people seeking to vote, officials said.

Compared with other chambers in the region, the Iranian parliament wields a respectable amount of power.

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