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Iran election draws conservatives: 'God, please accept this vote from me'

State TV reported a turnout of 64.6 percent in Iran's election today, the first since the 2009 poll that led to a crisis of legitimacy for the regime. Leaders said it was a 'religious duty' to vote.

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"Among my colleagues no one wanted to vote," she said, though some might have to get the stamp on their identity cards that can help with administrative jobs.

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"I called a friend this morning and asked about about 'great' presence at the voting station," the Tehrani wrote. "She said everyone was home and joked that her father was very eager to vote, which is why he was asleep until 10:30."

She visited more than a dozen polling stations, most in north Tehran, and found little activity except at Hosseiniyeh Ershad – a blue-tiled mosque favored for live TV shots and often crowded.

This Tehrani talked to an elderly woman monitoring the vote at Ershad: "She told me she had checked two schools in the neighborhood [used as polling places], but nothing was going on. She told the police who were guarding one of the school, 'Since no one is voting, you must force people to do so!'"

That picture matched that described by The Wall Street Journal, which had a correspondent in Tehran and reported "minimal" or no turnout in middle-class and affluent neighborhoods.

"One polling station in northern Tehran said by mid-afternoon that no one had cast a ballot in the giant plastic box set on the table," the Journal reported.

Journal correspondent Bill Spindle was among dozens of foreign journalists loaded onto buses, taken to three busy polling stations, "and warned not to visit others on their own."

One polling station in south Tehran was crowded all day during the 2009 presidential vote, "but today there is nothing of the sort," reported Tehran Bureau. "People come one by one and there is no crowd. Most people who do vote are old people and very religious women with chadors."

Turnout figures: 'at best, a partial truth'

The opposition boycott prompted widespread loathing online, with reformist parties banned and candidates not allowed to run or refusing to take part.

"Voting in a representative system means I have to choose someone to represent me [in parliament]," one Iranian journalist who did not vote wrote online, according to Reuters. "When the law says that my ideas are not allowed there, voting is totally meaningless."

So, too, may be the declared turnout results of today's election, according to author and journalist Azadeh Moaveni.

Ahmadinejad's contested 2009 reelection and its aftermath "has forever tainted confidence in Iran's electoral process," Ms. Moaveni wrote in the Guardian.

"We would all like to gauge where Iran is headed, and make better sense of what Iranians think," said Moaveni about sanctions, whether people blame the regime or the West, and the talk of war over Iran's nuclear program.

"As Iran's confrontation with the world grows more protracted and grave by the day, it is tempting to look to numbers and election results as a barometer of something," adds Moaveni. "But it would be a mistake to read anything into whatever turnout figures Tehran releases today. They will offer us, at best, a shaded and partial truth."

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