TEHRAN — Iran’s conservatives yesterday appeared poised to take control of the country’s legislature as pro-reform liberal voters heeded a boycott call and stayed away from the polls to protest what they said was a rigged election.
The only suspense was how many voters had heeded reformist calls not to vote to protest the blacklisting of thousands of moderate candidates. Official numbers are expected to begin trickling in today.
The government began a massive publicity campaign, warning that abstaining would be tantamount to aiding “the enemy,” America. While turnout was lighter than in the past, a mass repudiation of the vote did not materialize.
Analysts predicted the Developers of Islamic Iran, a group of hard-liners, would be the new dominant political force in the country. The group’s leader, lawmaker Gholamali Haddadadel, is a relative of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Islamic Republic’s supreme religious leader and dominant political force.
Election commission head Ahmad Azimzadeh late yesterday was quoted as saying turnout in the region including Tehran was estimated at 40 percent, higher than many reformists had hoped.
Mr. Azimzadeh said conservative candidates seemed to be ahead.
Turnout in more conservative villages and towns outside the major urban centers is expected to be higher, and some analysts were projecting a turnout of 50 percent. That would be more than 16 percentage points lower than the previous parliamentary elections in 2000, but far from the widespread rejection some reformists had hoped for.
The Bush administration, which had muted its criticism of the election for fear of provoking a nationalist backlash, yesterday stepped up its attack on the election.
“Candidates have been barred from participating in the elections in an attempt to limit the choice of the Iranian people for their government,” State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington.
“These actions do not represent free and fair elections and are not consistent with international norms.”
Iran’s Interior Ministry said it expected to release the first results and a turnout figure today and dismissed early estimates as mere speculation.
“As long as we have not opened the ballot boxes, none of the figures being bandied around can be confirmed by the Interior Ministry,” said spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani.
Four years ago the lines of voters extended out into the streets, with jubilant Iranians talking politics and singing songs as they sent a band of reformers to take over the parliament and deliver a stinging rebuke against the country’s hard-line Islamic rulers.
Those elections put Iran’s government in the hands of moderates, setting off a battle between the theocratic nation’s divinely mandated rulers and elected officials such as President Mohammed Khatami.View Entire Story
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