IRAN: Waiting for election results
Voting for the Iranian parliament has ended. Now comes the wait for results.
Some reports cast the vote as a battle between reformists and conservatives. But as readers of the Los Angeles Times and this blog know, only a miracle could propel reformists to power. The main tension is between conservatives allied with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and conservatives opposed to his style and economic policies. As The Times' Jeffrey Fleishman reports in Saturday's paper:
The campaign leading to the election revealed a split among political conservatives over the Iranian president. Ahmadinejad's supporters, including some ruling Shiite Muslim clerics, praise his defiance of the West and his tremendous appeal in the provinces. But others, such as former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, fault the president for what they regard as his overheated rhetoric toward the international community and for the country's continuing financial problems despite the surge in oil prices.
This time, officials said, full official results won't be announced slowly but all at once. That might make it tough to decipher the meaning of the election for the next few days. Nonetheless, the Associated Press has some early results:
In the 115 of parliament's 290 seats decided so far, pro-Ahmadinejad hard-liners won 42 seats and reformists 16, according to results announced by state television and the official news agency IRNA and reports from local officials ...
One conservative rival to Ahmadinejad, former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, scored a huge victory in his hometown of Qom and appeared a front-runner for the speaker's seat.
Iranian leaders also place a huge emphasis on turnout. They predicted more than 60% of eligible voters would cast ballots.
Polling stations for Iran's parliamentary elections closed late Friday night. Authorities extended voting four times until 11 p.m. to account for what they describe as a rush of last-minute voters. Writes Nazila Fathi of the New York Times:
Polling stations in the south of the city, where mostly poorer people live, were relatively empty, but the large mosque of Al Nabi in eastern Tehran, where Mr. Ahmadinejad lives, was crowded. Bearded men lined up outside the mosque to vote under heavy security. Women there voted separately from the men.
The Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink described one fascinating encounter between a young man and a group of true believers at a polling station in west Tehran:
"We have complete freedom and are here because we all love our leaders," Feyerdoon Dahati said, standing in a group by the pool. "That is not true," a young man replied, making heads turn sharply. "We all love Iran, but some have problems with the government," said the man, who gave only his first name, Mehdi. "I voted blank. Because none of the candidates represents me."
— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
UPDATE, 9 a.m. PST: Our correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran says the Ministry of Interior is reporting that about two thirds of the seats tallied so far have been captured by the conservative camp and about 30 percent by "other" groups. A conservative politician also says that pro-Ahmadinejad conservatives are winning more than anti-Ahmadinejad conservatives. Will the so-called pragmatic conservatives and reformists muster enough seats to be able to form an anti-Ahmadinejad majority?
UPDATE II, 3 p.m. PST: The Associated Press, citing Iranian news agencies, is reporting that of 158 seats tallied so far, conservative loyal to Ahmadinejad have won 57 seats while a rival faction of conservatives has won 40 and the reformists 25. Another 37 are independents of uncertain political allegiance. Tehran has yet to be counted. Meanwhile, the official Islamic Republic News Agency is reporting a turnout of 60%, a jump from the 51% of eligible voters who cast ballots in 2004. Another interesting tidbit: 68% of voters were women, a fact which could give a boost to reformists and moderates. IRNA also says the interior minister is alleging that "Western hackers tried to disrupt Iran's parliamentary elections which were for the first time conducted in a computerized way but to no avail."
Photos: From top, two women at a polling station in Tehran; a young men with the image of Che Guevara on his jacket prepares to vote in Tehran; women stand in line at a polling station in Qom. Credit: Fars News Agency