Eight protesters killed as anger erupts over Iranian election

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The Independent Online

Eight people have died in clashes with police in two towns in southern Iran over disputed results for a parliamentary election in which Islamic conservatives have won a big victory over reformists.

Eight people have died in clashes with police in two towns in southern Iran over disputed results for a parliamentary election in which Islamic conservatives have won a big victory over reformists.

In Firouzabad, the trouble began after the local governor declared an unexpectedly high turnout. An angry crowd demanded a recount and turned violent after police shot and wounded one demonstrator. In Izeh, four others died in clashes with police after storming government buildings to protest at election results.

Final figures for the vote, which was boycotted by leading reformists after hundreds of candidates were barred from standing, showed a record low turnout of 50.6 percent of Iran's 46 million eligible voters, the interior ministry said.

Iran's clerical establishment hailed the election as a great success and boasted that the turnout shocked doomsayers and "enemies" abroad who had predicted a much smaller vote. Disputed voter turnout of 50 per cent is bad news for the reformists, who had called for a boycott of the poll and had forecast participation of about 30 to 40 per cent. In Tehran, turnout this year was less than 30 per cent, with conservatives taking all the city's seats because of apparent apathy by reformists.

Although the main reformist party, the Iran Islamic Participation Front, boycotted the poll, other reformist factions voted. But they seem to have been comprehensively beaten, taking just 37 of the first 192 seats declared in the 295-seat parliament. More than 2,300 candidates were disqualified in the run up to the election by the conservative Guardian Council.

Supporters of the reformists have become unhappy with the movement, which failed to deliver on promises to liberalise politics. "I'm disillusioned with them all," Mohsen Rezai, a medical student in Tehran, said. "The only time I voted with my whole heart was for [President Mohammad] Khatami's first election, but even he can do nothing. By voting you make the system legitimate and it should not be."

Turnout appears to have been aided by conservative promises to focus on the economy, which is the foremost concern for most Iranians. It is unclear how the newly ascendant conservatives will use their parliamentary success. There are fears of a crackdown on dissidents and press freedom coupled with roll-back of hard-won social freedoms.

There are also concerns that the new parliament will discourage nuclear co-operation with the international community. Iran acknowledged yesterday that it bought nuclear components on a black market. "We have bought things from some dealers but we don't know what the source was or what country they came from," Hamid Reza Asefi, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said. "It happens that some of those (dealers) were from some sub-continent countries." Mr Asefi said Tehran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency about the purchases.

Washington accuses Iran of a lack of probity in its nuclear programme and says it is still trying to acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons.

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