- Title: IRAN: Iranians cast votes in run-off parliamentary election
- Date: 25th April 2008
- Summary: (W2) TEHRAN, IRAN (APRIL 25, 2008) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF ERSHAD MOSQUE IN NORTHERN TEHRAN MAIN ENTRANCE OF ERSHAD MOSQUE
- Reuters ID: LVA3PE31GNEVYEXKU2SP3ZB0Q9D7
- Duration: 00:00:12
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: Iranians went to the polls on Friday (April 25) to elect 82 lawmakers in a run-off parliamentary vote, although the ballot is not expected to have any impact on the tight hold of conservatives on the assembly after reformist candidates were barred from running.
The country's most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, attracted huge media interest when he cast his vote at the Imam Khomeini mosque in Tehran. Before the March vote, Khamenei who usually prefers to stay above the political fray, called on voters to favour hardline candidates who supported the government.
Moderate opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have called the vote unfair because the unelected Guardian Council, which screens candidates on their commitment to Islam and Iran's clerical system, stopped many of them from running in March.
Reformists, who secured more than 30 seats in the first round, have called for a high turn out because it would give the opposition a bigger voice. The new parliament will begin work in May.
Conservatives won a majority of seats in the 290-member parliament in the first round of the election in March, but in a number of places no candidates secured enough votes to win -- hence the run-off. Iranians are now electing 82 lawmakers out of 164 candidates in 100 cities, including the capital Tehran.
Parliament does not determine policy in areas such as Iran's disputed nuclear programme, oil or foreign affairs. It does, however, have an influence on economic policy.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0330 GMT) and are due to close at 6 p.m. (1330 GMT), although this has been extended in past elections.
Khamenei has the last word on all state matters including its nuclear programme which the West fears is a cover to build nuclear bombs. Iran says it wants nuclear power for electricity.
Ahmadinejad, who cast his ballot at a polling station in Imam Jafar Sadeq mosque, has said parliament plays a key role in Iran.
Hardline backers of Ahmadinejad support his no-compromise approach to the nuclear dispute with the West, but reformists and moderate conservatives blame him for provoking the U.N. Security Council to hit Iran with three rounds of sanctions.
Ahmadinejad, who won the presidency in 2005 pledging to share out Iran's oil wealth more fairly, has come under mounting pressure from the public, top clerics and the outgoing assembly over his failure to rein in inflation, now over 20 percent.
Analysts say despite conservatives' dominance, the next parliament will be more vocal in its criticism of Ahmadinejad's economic management because the conservative camp in the assembly includes not just his allies, but critics as well.
Rivals of Ahmadinejad, including former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani who secured a seat in the first round, are looking beyond this vote to the 2009 presidential poll.
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