Iranians mixed on religious figures in politics: poll

WASHINGTON Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:14pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As Iran heads into presidential elections this week, Iranians have mixed views on political roles for religious figures but a large majority backs sharia law, according to a poll published on Tuesday.

As part of the Pew Research Center poll that shows contradictions between republicanism and theocratic rule in Iran, 40 percent of Iranians said religious figures should play a large role in politics.

Twenty-six percent said religious figures should have some influence in political matters. Thirty percent said they should have not too much or no influence.

Iranians vote on Friday among six candidates for a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Within Iran's mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on such big issues as Tehran's nuclear program.

The Pew poll showed that 83 percent of Iranians say they favor the use of sharia, the Islamic legal and moral code.

Only 37 percent of Iranian Muslims think their country's current laws follow sharia very closely. Forty-five percent say existing laws adhere to Islamic law somewhat closely.

The poll was based on face-to-face interviews in Iran with 1,522 Iranians ages 18 and older conducted between February 24 and May 3. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points.

A separate poll by Pew's Global Attitudes Project shows that a median of 59 percent of people surveyed in 39 countries have an unfavorable opinion of Iran. Twenty percent have a favorable opinion.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said Tehran does not respect the personal freedoms of its people, Pew said. Eleven percent said it does.

The survey was conducted from March 2 to May 1 among 37,653 respondents. The margin of error among the 39 countries ranged from 3.1 to 7.7 percentage points.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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