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Iranians vote, conservatives tipped to win

world Updated: Mar 14, 2008 21:17 IST

Reuters
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Iranians voted on Friday in a low-key election likely to keep parliament in the grip of conservatives after unelected state bodies barred many reformist foes of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the race.

But the next assembly might not give Ahmadinejad an easy ride, even if conservatives dominate. They include not just his allies, but critics of his economic policies and politicians looking beyond this election to the presidential poll in 2009.

Reformists favouring more political and social freedom had hoped to capitalise on public discontent about inflation, now at 19 per cent. But the vetting process and a government crackdown on dissent have muted their challenge. They may struggle to keep the 40 or so seats they held in the outgoing 290-seat assembly.

Food prices, not foreign policy or Iran's nuclear row with the West, are what most Iranians worry about in the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

"I hope this time they do a better job and pay more attention to the economy, the housing problem and inflation," said Soraya Tavasoli, a middle-aged woman backing the conservatives.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has effectively endorsed Ahmadinejad and his government, cast his ballot early and urged others to do the same.

Khamenei usually stays above the political fray, but he was quoted as saying in newspapers on Thursday that Iranians should consider "voting for those who can pave the way for the current government which is active and willing to serve".

His support for Ahmadinejad was relayed by anonymous text messages to mobile phone users on Friday.