Low turnout in Iranian election after banning of 2,300 candidates

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The Independent Online

Turnout in Iran's parliamentary elections appeared to be low yesterday, despite a pronounced effort by conservatives to mobilise the vote.

Turnout in Iran's parliamentary elections appeared to be low yesterday, despite a pronounced effort by conservatives to mobilise the vote.

Early indications of urban voting patterns suggested that people had stayed away from polling stations amid widespread disillusionment with the electoral process.

Leading hardliners launched a bitter attack on reformists, who had urged voters to stay at home. "Those who whisper 'don't vote' are traitors to the country and Islam," said Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardian Council, which banned 2,300 reformist candidates from running. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on voters to deliver a "slap in the face to America" by turning out in strong numbers. State television played patriotic songs and showed footage of mass participation in previous elections.

The President, Mohammad Khatami, had labelled the elections "unfair". But he told journalists that the public could create a surprise by turning out to vote in massive numbers. The conservative "Coalition of the Builders of an Islamic Iran" is expected to take the parliament, known as Majlis.

Most voters who turned out appeared to be diehard conservatives or religious people who had been told it was their duty to vote. Others said they wanted the official mark on their identity card showing they had voted. There have been rumours recently that proof of electoral participation would ease government job or university applications. "My only reason to vote is not to get into trouble taking exams. I've been picking names from the list at random," said Fereshteh, a 20-year-old woman outside a north Tehran polling station.

At another polling station in north Tehran, officials said 700 people had voted half an hour before the polls were due to close. The station serves several thousand people. In rural areas, where local politics and tribal patronage are more important than national issues, turnout was expected to be high.

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