Iran vote: Khamenei loyalists appear to do well
Good results for Ayatollah Khamenei's candidates in Iran's parliamentary vote could strengthen the supreme leader's hand before a presidential vote next year.
Iran, under intense Western pressure over its disputed nuclear program, on Saturday declared an initial turnout of 64 percent in a parliamentary election shunned by most reformists as a sham.Skip to next paragraph
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Iran's Islamic clerical leadership is eager to restore the damage to its legitimacy caused by the violent crushing of eight months of street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected in a 2009 vote his opponents said was rigged.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed the 2009 result, has since turned sharply against Ahmadinejad. Some early results from Friday's vote suggested the divisive president's supporters were losing ground in the 290-seat parliament.
His sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, failed to win a seat in their hometown of Garmsar, the semi-official Mehr news agency said. Elsewhere, Khamenei loyalists appeared to be doing well.
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar put the turnout at 64 percent after more than 26 million votes had been counted, telling state television the Iranian nation had disappointed its enemies by voting in such numbers.
The figure was close to the 65 percent predicted for weeks by hardline conservative leaders and media.
Najjar said 135 seats had been won outright so far, with 10 going to a runoff. Final results were not expected on Saturday.
According to a Reuters tally of the results announced in 126 seats, 81 went to Khamenei supporters, 9 to Ahmadinejad's faction, 7 to reformists and 7 to independents, with the allegiance of the remaining winners unclear.
The results are hard to compare with the outgoing parliament because hardline Khamenei and Ahmadinejad loyalists were united in the 2008 elections, taking about 70 percent of seats.
Results declared so far were mostly from rural areas, Ahmadinejad's traditional strongholds. Khamenei's candidates were expected to do well in Tehran and other big cities.
Khamenei had called for a high turnout to send a message of defiance to "the arrogant powers bullying us."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Iran's election was not free or fair. "The regime has presented the vote as a test of loyalty, rather than an opportunity for people freely to choose their own representatives," he said.