Iran’s parliamentary election may strengthen the hand of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the expense of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Electoral officials confirmed wins by 190 candidates, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said on state television today. Run-offs will be required for at least 30 seats as candidates failed to attract the minimum 25 percent required, he said. There are 290 seats in parliament.
Early results showed the United Principlist Front leading, state-run Press TV said. The group, which includes members of the parliament, has criticized Ahmadinejad for poor economic management and failing to show sufficient allegiance to Khamenei, 72, who was appointed in 1989 as the country’s highest authority.
Mohammad-Najjar didn’t announce the names of the 190 confirmed winners.
Officials sought to portray the turnout as a repudiation of pressure over the country’s nuclear program
Khamenei had called for participation as a show of unity against external threats. The vote took place as the U.S. and European Union apply sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sales and central bank in a bid to halt what they say is Tehran’s drive to build a nuclear weapon. Iran says its program is civilian.
The turnout in this “sensitive time shows that despite plots, pressures, sanctions and slanders by foreign circles and their media, the nation firmly defends its national interests,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website today.
Based on early returns, turnout was 64.2 percent nationwide and about 48 percent in Tehran, Mohammad-Najjar said. About 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in legislative elections four years ago.
“The Iranian nation proved to the world that it’s pursuing its path steadfastly and disappointed the enemies that aimed to poison the climate of the elections,” Mohammad-Najjar said.
Candidates who are leading the votes in Tehran include parliamentary member Ahmad Tavakoli, who has frequently denounced Ahmadinejad’s policies, former oil minister Masoud Mir Kazemi, who was dismissed by the president last year, and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a former parliamentary speaker and adviser to Khamenei, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today.
Ahmadinejad’s sister, Parvin, lost her race in their hometown of Garmsar, southeast of the capital, according to the state-run Mehr news agency.
“It has been clear for some time that these elections would not be free and fair,” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement. “The field of candidates for this election has been limited by the intensified vetting of candidates, and the ongoing repression of dissent.”
The vote is the first since the disputed 2009 presidential election that sparked mass protests. While Khamenei backed the president ensuring his re-election, the two have clashed over political matters including the president’s appointments and choice of aides. In May last year the president stayed away from work for a week after Khamenei overruled him by canceling the resignation of Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi.
The outcome of the race is unlikely to affect Iran’s nuclear policy. Iran holds a presidential election next year and Ahmadinejad isn’t eligible for re-election.
About 48 million Iranians were eligible to cast ballots for more than 3,400 candidates cleared to compete by the Guardian Council, a body of jurists and clerics.
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