Iran reformists question counting in election

17/03/2008 - 14:12

By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Staunch opponents of President MahmoudAhmadinejad complained on Monday about vote counting in Iran'sparliamentary election, in which conservatives have retainedtheir 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 callthemselves "principlist" for their loyalty to the IslamicRepublic'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, EsmailGerami-Moghaddam, told Iran's ISNA news agency.

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

Mohammad Hossein Mousapour, deputy head of the ministry'selection headquarters, told a news conference the parliamentelection had been "unique and unprecedented regarding nothaving voting irregularities".

Conservatives will again dominate the assembly. ButAhmadinejad may not get an easy ride because the camp is broadand includes political rivals who may use parliament as aspringboard to launch into next year's presidential race.

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

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

One analyst said Ahmadinejad's core support in parliamentmay have shrunk to about a quarter of seats, down from roughlytwo-thirds in the outgoing assembly. The lack of disciplinedparties in Iran makes precise figures difficult to obtain.

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


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

The conservative-controlled Guardian Council of jurists andclerics, which checked hopefuls met criteria such as commitmentto the Islamic Republic's ideals, insists it acted withoutbias.

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

Without giving a precise breakdown, Mousapour saidconservatives 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 twocandidates in seats where no one had enough votes to winoutright. 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 withIran over its nuclear plans, have called the vote unfair. TheWest fears Iran wants nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran says Western nations were trying to interfere in theIslamic Republic's electoral process and say turnout of about60 percent reflect popular support for the system.

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

(Additional reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Editing by RichardBalmforth)

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