Conservatives seen victors in Iran polls
( Reuter )- Iranians voted on Friday in a parliamentary election weighted in favor of conservative supporters of the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment.
Many reformist opponents of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were barred from the race. But the new assembly might not give him an easy ride, even if conservatives dominate.
Polling stations closed at 11 p.m. (19:30 GMT), five hours later than planned, to allow more people to cast ballots. Counting was to start at midnight, state media said.
Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said some results would be announced on Saturday, but Tehran might take longer. He said turnout exceeded the 50 percent of four years ago, while another official said it topped 60 percent.
Some anti-Ahmadinejad politicians said their informal exit polls suggested the United Front, the most pro-government group of candidates, was doing well in Tehran. Conservatives held 26 of the capital's 30 seats in the outgoing assembly.
But even if conservative factions consolidate their grip on the 290-seat assembly, there are critics as well as supporters of Ahmadinejad in their ranks.
Some of his potential rivals in next year's presidential election say he has fuelled inflation. Others blame his fiery style for keeping Iran on a collision course with the U.N. Security Council, which this month imposed more sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program.
Reformists favoring more political and social freedom had hoped to capitalize on public discontent about inflation, now at 19 percent. But the vetting process and a government crackdown on dissent muted their challenge. They may struggle to keep the 40 or so seats they had held in the previous parliament.