Iran General NewsPolling stations quiet in Iran’s parliamentary runoff election

Polling stations quiet in Iran’s parliamentary runoff election

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ImageNew York Times: Polls opened in Tehran and other areas of Iran on Friday for runoff elections to fill the 82 seats in the 290-member Parliament in which there was not a clear winner in the first round.

The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: April 26, 2008

ImageTEHRAN — Polls opened in Tehran and other areas of Iran on Friday for runoff elections to fill the 82 seats in the 290-member Parliament in which there was not a clear winner in the first round.

But polling places in Tehran were less crowded than they had been for the first round, on March 14, with many polling places in north and central Tehran empty in the morning.

The majority of the seats decided in the first round of voting were won by conservative politicians, but the winners were divided between supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his critics.

Reformist politicians who favor more political and social freedom won about 30 seats. Their more prominent candidates were barred from running by the conservative Guardian Council, which vets candidates.

In Tehran, where 19 conservatives were elected in the first round, 11 more seats will be filled in the Friday vote.

Senior officials urged voters to go to the polls. The supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told reporters Friday morning that the second round of elections was as important as the first, the Iranian Student News Agency reported.

“The same incentives and feelings, as well as sense of responsibility that encouraged all of us to turn out in the first round of elections, prevails in the second round as well,” he was quoted as saying.

But in Tehran, Azam Shahverdi, 52, said she was not voting because she did not believe that her vote would change the situation. “The price of food has gone up even since the first round of elections,” she said angrily. “Why should I vote?”

Alireza Mahmoudi, 42, who was the lone voter when he cast his ballot at a mosque in north Tehran, said he chose the reformists. “We have to vote for the moderate ones,” he said. “Otherwise, the radicals will continue running the country like this.”

Reformists urged their supporters to vote in Tehran so that they could form a stronger minority in Parliament. However, with low turnout over all, conservatives were expected to mobilize their own supporters and consolidate their power.

Yet, it is not clear which party will dominate the new Parliament. About 40 seats were won in the first round by candidates who have not affiliated themselves with any political party. More than 50 of the seats went to supporters of Mr. Ahmadinejad, and about 40 were won by his conservative critics who have opposed his economic policies.

This month, the president fired his economic and interior ministers. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, the departing interior minister, whose agency is responsible for holding elections, showed up at the ministry on Friday and said he would remain in office until after the results were announced, ISNA reported. He said the results would be announced Monday.

The departing economic minister, Davoud Danesh Jaafari, joined the critics of Mr. Ahmadinejad, and during his farewell speech on Tuesday accused the president of being responsible for Iran’s inflation rate, which stands at 18 percent.

Mr. Ahmadinejad recently accused businessmen of having links to an “economic mafia” responsible for the inflation.

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