March 17, 2008 / 5:07 AM / 9 years ago

Iran reformists question counting in election

4 Min Read

<p>A cleric writes on a piece of paper outside a polling station in the city of Qom, south of Tehran, March 14, 2008.Ahmed Jadallah</p>

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Staunch opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complained on Monday about vote counting in Iran's parliamentary election, in which conservatives have retained their grip on the assembly, a news agency reported.

Full results from Friday's vote have yet to be announced, but the Interior Ministry said conservatives who call themselves "principlist" for their loyalty to the Islamic Republic's values had 74 percent of seats decided so far. Parliament has 290 seats.

"We have complaints about the method of counting votes," the spokesman of the reformist National Trust party, Esmail Gerami-Moghaddam, told Iran's ISNA news agency.

"We want the Interior Ministry to announce the result of vote counting at each station through their Web site," he said.

Mohammad Hossein Mousapour, deputy head of the ministry's election headquarters, told a news conference the parliament election had been "unique and unprecedented regarding not having voting irregularities".

Conservatives will again dominate the assembly. But Ahmadinejad may not get an easy ride because the camp is broad and includes political rivals who may use parliament as a springboard to launch into next year's presidential race.

"The result of parliamentary election does not mean the government was victorious," said Amir Ali Amiri, secretary for the Inclusive Coalition, a conservative group backed by Ahmadinejad's rivals, Iran's ISNA news agency reported.

"Conservative critics of the government will have a majority in the next parliament," Amiri said.

One analyst said Ahmadinejad's core support in parliament may have shrunk to about a quarter of seats, down from roughly two-thirds in the outgoing assembly. The lack of disciplined parties in Iran makes precise figures difficult to obtain.

<p>Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot in Iran's parliamentary election in Tehran March 14, 2008.Caren Firouz</p>

The vote will not directly impact nuclear, oil or foreign policy, which are all ultimately determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei under Iran's system of clerical rule.

Unfair

Many reformists, who seek political and social change, were barred from even entering the race by a pre-vote vetting procedure they say aimed to hand victory to conservatives.

Slideshow (19 Images)

The conservative-controlled Guardian Council of jurists and clerics, which checked hopefuls met criteria such as commitment to the Islamic Republic's ideals, insists it acted without bias.

Iran's state-owned Press TV satellite channel said on Sunday conservatives had won 163 seats and reformists had 40 -- roughly matching the reformists' minority in the outgoing parliament.

Without giving a precise breakdown, Mousapour said conservatives had 74 percent of 189 seats decided till now -- that suggests around 140 seats.

He also said 43 seats would go to run-offs between two candidates in seats where no one had enough votes to win outright. Some run-offs may be between two conservatives, guaranteeing a seat for that camp, but Mousapour did not say.

The United States and European Union, at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear plans, have called the vote unfair. The West fears Iran wants nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran says Western nations were trying to interfere in the Islamic Republic's electoral process and say turnout of about 60 percent reflect popular support for the system.

"The (EU) statement on Iran's parliamentary election is spiteful, hasty and politically motivated, and it is (considered) unacceptable by Iran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a statement read on state radio.

Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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