Iran's runoff polls favour Ahmadinejad rivals

Initial results for second round of parliamentary voting give president's conservative opponents increased majority.

    Iran's runoff polls favour Ahmadinejad rivals
    Preliminary results of runoff elections indicate eight seats for Ahmadinejad and 20 for his opponents [Reuters]

    Final results for many constituencies in Iran's parliamentary runoff elections show conservative rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning a solid majority of seats and cementing their hold on the legislature.

    Of 65 seats up for grabs in Friday's election, Ahmadinejad's opponents won 20 while the president's supporters captured just eight.

    Independents won 11 seats, according to state media early on Saturday. Results for the rest of the parties were expected later in the day.

    Ahmadinejad's opponents had already won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in the first round of voting in March.

    On Friday, polling stations in the capital were packed with people voting for 25 of Tehran's 30 seats in the parliament, state television reported. The other five were decided in the first round in March.

    Ahmadinejad and his wife, Aazam Farahi, cast their ballots in the afternoon without making any remarks to waiting reporters.

    Ali Larijani, the parliament speaker, told state television that a high voter turnout would soften attitudes by Western nations, which have imposed crippling sanctions suspecting Iran is on course to acquiring an atomic bomb.

    Iran insists its programme is solely intended for generating power.

    Economic issues

    "When the West and some regional countries find out that the Iranian government has the strong support of its people, global enemies will be pushed back and peace will return to the region," Larijani said.

    Some voters said they were voting over economic issues.

    Several rounds of UN sanctions over the nuclear issue have hit Iran hard, contributing to double-digit inflation and unemployment.

    Of the 130 candidates, two for each of the 65 seats, 69 were conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad, about 26 backed the president and the rest were centrists.

    Although Ahmadinejad is likely to serve until the end of his term in August 2013, his allies have been forced out of key posts and his political clout has been weakened.

    Nuclear stalemate

    While Iran's parliament has no direct control over major policy matters like its nuclear programme, it can influence the run-up to the election of Ahmadinejad's successor.

    Western nations, led by the US and the EU, have demanded Iran stop uranium enrichment - a pre-requisite for building a nuclear bomb - but Iran has so far shown no sign of backing down.

    "My advice is that people take the run-off as seriously as the first round," Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said in comments carried live by state television after he cast his vote

    Ahmadinejad, who won re-election in 2009 in a hotly disputed election with the backing of the clerical establishment, has seen his political fortunes decline sharply after he was perceived to have defied the supreme leader in April 2011 and tried to expand the authority of the presidency.

    The new parliament will begin its session in late May.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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