Iran parliament vote seen bolstering Supreme Leader
TEHRAN: Iranians voted on Friday in a parliamentary election likely to reinforce Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s power over rival hardliners led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranian leaders were looking for a high turnout to ease an acute crisis of legitimacy caused by Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009 when widespread accusations of fraud plunged the Islamic Republic into the worst unrest of its 33-year history.
Iran also faces economic turmoil compounded by Western sanctions over a nuclear programme that has prompted threats of military action by Israel, whose leader meets US President Barack Obama in the White House on Monday.
The vote in Iran is only a limited test of political opinion since leading reformist groups stayed out of what became a contest between the Khamenei and Ahmadinejad camps.
“Whenever there has been more enmity towards Iran, the importance of the elections has been greater,” Khamenei, 72, said after casting his vote before television cameras.
“The arrogant powers are bullying us to maintain their prestige. A high turnout will be better for our nation … and for preserving security.”
The vote will have scant impact on Iran’s foreign or nuclear policies, in which Khamenei already has the final say, but could strengthen the Supreme Leader’s hand before the presidential vote next year. Ahmadinejad, 56, cannot run for a third term.
Iranians may be preoccupied with sharply rising prices and jobs, but it is Iran’s supposed nuclear ambitions that worry the outside world. Western sanctions over the nuclear programme have hit imports, driving prices up and squeezing ordinary Iranians.