Iran to hold second round of parliament elections

Iran on Friday is to hold the second round of parliamentary elections in which 164 will compete for the remaining 82 seats, including 11 for the politically important Tehran constituency, reported the dpa.

In the first round of elections on March 14, 208 of the total 290 deputies gained the necessary 25 per cent of the votes and have been elected directly. In the second round a simple majority would suffice.

The conservatives took more than 60 per cent of the seats and the remaining seats went to reformists and so-called independents.

Despite the clear victory of the conservatives, observers did not interpret the results as a victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the new conservative faction headed by former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is considered to be highly critical of the president, especially his economic policies.

Earlier this month, Economy Minister Davood Danesh-Jafari resigned, reportedly due to disputes with Ahmadinejad, and is to be replaced by Hossein Semsami.

The president also got embroiled this week in a political fight with Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel, who has been a fierce supporter of Ahmadinejad in the past but is now following a critical approach after inflation rates ranging between 20 to 30 per cent has sparked harsh criticism among ordinary Iranians.

The new conservative faction headed by Larijani claims to have gained the majority of the seats in the first round and is optimistic about doing so again in the second round.

The reformists, close to the two ex-presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, have right from the beginning had little chance as most of their top candidates were rejected by the Guardian Council, an ultra-conservative watchdog for the ideological qualification of the candidates and close to the president.

Elections will be held from 8 am to 6 pm (0330 - 1330 GMT) but is expected to be extended for at least two hours. According to the Interior Ministry, results would be announced on Friday.

Almost 44 million Iranians over the age of 18 are eligible to vote but turnout is expected to be much lower than the almost 51 per cent in the first round.

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