Iranians vote to pick between conservatives
In front of a portrait of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani casts his ballot for the parliamentary polls in Tehran.Faithful supporters of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei flocked to the polls early March 2, but most reformists stayed home, saying the parliamentary election was meaningless.
Khamanei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, said it was “a duty and a right” for every eligible Iranian to vote, especially now that the “Iranian nation is at a more sensitive period” amid the confrontation with the West. “The vote always carries a message for our friends and our enemies,” he said, Reuters reported. Election turnout was seen as a test for the popularity of the clerical establishment, which was rocked by the bloody aftermath of a 2009 presidential vote that reformists said was rigged in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s favor.
With reformists mostly sidelined and opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi under house arrest, the election is mostly a race between rival conservative hardliners – those loyal to Khamanei and those in Ahmadinejad’s camp. In wealthier north Tehran, most polling centers were empty for hours after they opened before voting picked up. “A turnout as big as Iran” was a headline on state television, which predicted a “historic” level of participation. State radio and television have played revolutionary songs in the past days to stir nationalist sentiment before the vote.
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. The election for the 290-seat Parliament pits the United Front of Principlists, which includes loyalists of Khamanei, against the equally hard-line, pro-Ahmadinejad Resistance Front.