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Iran conservatives retain grip on parliament

Iran's conservatives retain control of parliament with a comfortable majority in legislative elections.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Tehran
UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2008 10:00 AM IST

Iran's conservatives on Sunday retained control of parliament with a comfortable majority in legislative elections, despite a respectable showing by reformists who suffered heavy pre-vote vetoes.

Conservatives are expected to secure 71 per cent of seats, the interior ministry announced, in a vote the European Union said was "neither free nor fair" owing to the mass disqualification of reformist candidates.

It remains to be seen how supportive the new parliament will be of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who must seek re-election next year against a background of popular discontent over Iran's high inflation.

"The fact that people have again entrusted parliament to the principalists is something to be treasured," Shahabeddin Sadr, the spokesman of the main conservative coalition, told AFP.

Conservatives have won 163 seats so far in the 290-seat chamber and 54 of their candidates would compete in run-off votes next month, English-language state television channel Press-TV said, quoting the interior ministry.

Reformists had won 40 seats so far, it added, meaning Iran's embattled moderates have managed to hold on to at least the same representation they had in the outgoing parliament despite the disqualifications.

Reformists hailed their performance as "remarkable" under circumstances that saw hundreds of their best candidates, including sitting MPs, disqualified by hardline bodies for insufficient loyalty to revolutionary values.

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