Iran heads to ballots amid tension with West

Iran heads to ballots amid tension with West

TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse
Iran heads to ballots amid tension with West

People walk past a billboard with an image of President Ahmadinejad. REUTERS photo

Iran is to vote today in parliamentary elections that leaders are keen to show as a sign of defiance to the West, which is imposing tough sanctions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program.

Some 3,400 candidates are vying for the 290 seats in Iran’s legislature, known as the Majlis. Iran has an electorate of 48 million, but not all will vote. A boycott by the main reformist parties, and the exclusion of any candidate who has less than complete loyalty to the Islamic regime, mean conservatives easily dominate the polling lists.

That has reduced the choice for supporters of the opposition Green Movement and reformist groups who held widespread protests after Iran’s last nationwide poll: the 2009 presidential election that returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office amid opposition cries of vote fraud.

Khamanei warns against enemy

This time, the election boils down to a struggle between conservatives who back Ahmadinejad and a hardline current that despises him. The regime, worried that a low turnout could indicate the level of public support it enjoys, has repeatedly urged voters to participate yesterday.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei said this week that a massive turnout was needed “to show our determination to the enemy, so it understands it cannot resist our nation.” Ahmadinejad has called voting “a national duty,” while Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said: “Without a doubt, the higher the participation, the stronger the national security.”