Tehran - Iranians
voted on Friday in a parliamentary election likely to reinforce Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's power over rival hardliners led by
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranian leaders were looking for a high turnout to ease an acute
crisis of legitimacy caused by Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009 when
widespread accusations of fraud plunged the Islamic Republic into the
worst unrest of its 33-year history.
Iran also faces economic turmoil compounded by Western sanctions
over a nuclear programme that has prompted threats of military action by
Israel, whose leader meets U.S. President Barack Obama in the White
House on Monday.
The vote in Iran is only a limited test of political opinion
since leading reformist groups stayed out what became a contest between
the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad camps.
"Whenever there has been more enmity towards Iran, the importance
of the elections has been greater," Khamenei, 72, said after casting
his vote before television cameras.
"The arrogant powers are bullying us to maintain their prestige. A
high turnout will be better for our nation ... and for preserving
The vote will have scant impact on Iran's foreign or nuclear
policies, in which Khamenei already has the final say, but could
strengthen the Supreme Leader's hand before the presidential vote next
year. Ahmadinejad, 56, cannot run for a third term.
Iranians may be preoccupied with sharply rising prices and jobs,
but it is Iran's supposed nuclear ambitions that worry the outside
world. Western sanctions over the nuclear programme have hit imports,
driving prices up and squeezing ordinary Iranians.
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