Khamenei's clerics set to trounce Ahmadinejad camp in Iran vote

Reuters News
Posted: May 04, 2012 8:04 AM
Khamenei's clerics set to trounce Ahmadinejad camp in Iran vote

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranians voted on Friday in a run-off parliamentary election in which the Islamic republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is set for a resounding victory over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both conservative hardliners.

Khamenei's majority will mean a tougher final year for Ahmadinejad in his second and last term, and with reformists mostly sidelined and opposition leaders under house arrest, the vote is purely a test of the popularity of Khamenei's clerical establishment.

Some 65 of 290 seats are being contested after Khamenei loyalists won more than 75 percent in the first round in March.

The election will have no impact on Tehran's nuclear row with the West or its foreign affairs, which are already determined by Khamenei, and will extend his influence in the 2013 presidential election.

Among the five candidates who have already secured seats in Tehran, Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, a key ally of Khamenei and father-in-law to his son Mojtaba, won most votes.

"We have to wait for the factions to be formed before we can see what happened. But whatever happens the next parliament will not give him (Ahmadinejad) an easy ride. I doubt he'll be very happy," said analyst Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University.


Khamenei swiftly endorsed Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009, rejecting opposition allegations of widespread fraud that led to eight months of unrest, but a rift opened between the two leaders when the president tried to undermine the leading political role of clergy, Ahmadinejad's critics said.

In March, Ahmadinejad became the first president in the Islamic Republic's history to be summoned to parliament for questioning. Parliament, which has the power to impeach the president, accused him of economic mismanagement and making illegal appointments.

In the past months, dozens of Ahmadinejad allies have been detained or dismissed from their posts for being linked to a "deviant current" that his rivals say aims to sideline clerics.

Ahmadinejad has inflicted hardship on Iranians, critics say, through higher inflation and by slashing food and fuel subsidies to cut spending, replacing them with cash handouts of about $38 a month per person.

Iran is facing isolation and threats of Israeli military action over its disputed nuclear program which the West suspects is aimed at making nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this.

The Islamic state and world major powers resumed nuclear talks in mid-April in Istanbul after more than a year. They are scheduled to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.


In a vote that pits the United Front of Principlists, which includes loyalists of Khamenei, against the equally hardline, pro-Ahmadinejad Resistance Front, names of some candidates, have appeared on both lists.

Khamenei called for a high turnout in Friday's second round.

"My suggestion is that they (people) should take the second round as seriously as the first round. The higher the number of votes for lawmakers ... the better they can work," state television quoted him as saying after he cast his vote.

State television reported that polling stations in 33 constituencies, including the capital Tehran, opened to voters at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT). They are due to close at 6 p.m. (1430 GMT), although officials have said the time could be extended.

Hours after the voting began, Iran's state television showed footage of some polling stations where queues of voters were waiting to cast their ballots.

"I will vote because my vote will be a defeat for Iran's enemies," state television quoted a young man introduced only by his first name of Alireza as saying.

In the race for the 30 seats in Tehran, five candidates were able to secure victory in the first round in March and 50 are competing for the remaining 25 seats, Iranian media reported.

Based on lists published by the media, most of the hopeful running in Tehran are opponents of Ahmadinejad.

Turnout in the first round of parliamentary election was 64 percent. The interior ministry has said final results were expected within 24 hours after the polls close.

The new parliament convenes on May 27.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Additional reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Louise Ireland)