Iranians voted yesterday in a run-off parliamentary election that could establish a new balance between Iran’s top leader and its president in the legislative assembly.
State television reported that polling stations in 33 constituencies, including the capital, Tehran, opened to voters at 8am and closed at 6pm.
About 65 seats of the 290-member assembly are up for grabs, after loyalists to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei won a majority at the expense of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the first round.
Khamenei called for a high turnout in the 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 TV quoted him as having said after he cast his vote.
The parliamentary vote has been seen as a popularity test for Iran’s clerical establishment, which was rocked by the bloody aftermath of a 2009 presidential vote that reformists said was rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favor.
In the race for the 30 seats in Tehran, five candidates were able to secure victory in the first round and about 50 are competing for the remaining 25 seats, Iranian media said.
With reformists mostly sidelined and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi under house arrest, the vote is mostly a duel between rival conservative hardliners — those loyal to Khamenei and those in Ahmadinejad’s camp.
Khamenei swiftly endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009, rejecting opposition allegations of widespread fraud that led to eight months of unrest.
However, a rift opened between the two leaders when the president tried to undermine the leading political role of clergy in the Islamic Republic, Ahmadinejad’s critics said.
Ahmadinejad is expected to face more challenges during the rest of his second and final term, after the wide defeat of his allies in the first round of the vote in March.
The election result will have a bearing on the country’s presidential election next year.