Conservatives tighten grip in Iran run-off vote
Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said conservatives took more than 69 percent of 287 seats decided.
Conservatives have consolidated their grip on Iran's parliament after run-off votes for undecided seats, state radio reported on Saturday, but reformists said the election process was biased against them.
Conservatives won a majority of the 208 seats decided in the first round of voting in March for the 290-member assembly. Run-off votes were held on Friday for 82 undecided seats and, as expected, those polls have not changed the overall outcome.
Although conservatives have the upper hand in parliament again, analysts say the assembly may give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a tougher time as rivals in the broad conservative camp jockey for position before the 2009 presidential election.
Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi was quoted by Iranian radio as saying conservatives took more than 69 percent of 287 seats decided, suggesting they held almost 200 seats. That is in line with the proportion announced after the first round.
The results of three parliamentary seats were annulled for unspecified reasons, Iranian media reported.
Reformists, Ahmadinejad's staunchest critics, have said the vote was unfair because the unelected Guardian Council, which screens candidates on their commitment to Islam and Iran's clerical system, barred many of them from standing.
Officials say the system is fair and impartial.
Pourmohammadi was quoted by the radio as saying reformists, who seek political and social change, won about 16.4 percent of seats and independents about 14.3 percent. Those percentages would equate to roughly 47 and 40 seats respectively.
Without a tradition of disciplined political parties in Iran, clear loyalties are often difficult to determine and allegiances can shift.
'BETTER THAN EXPECTED'
Reformists said they won more than 30 seats in the first round. Before Pourmohammadi spoke, a reformist official said the group did "a little better than expected" in the run-offs.
"From the final results we have so far, 17 reformists have won seats in provinces (aside from Tehran)," Abdollah Naseri, an official from the main reformist coalition, told Reuters.
Conservatives, who call themselves "principlists" to show their loyalty to the Islamic Republic's ideals, include staunch supporters of Ahmadinejad as well as some who have become critical in particular of the president's economic policies.
Ahmadinejad, who won the presidency in 2005 pledging to share out Iran's oil wealth more fairly, has come under mounting pressure from the public, top clerics and the outgoing assembly over his failure to rein in inflation, now more than 20 percent.
Parliament does not determine major policy in areas such as Iran's disputed nuclear program, oil or foreign affairs but it has an influence on economic policy.
An official said turnout was higher on Friday than past run-off votes but below the 60 percent in the first round.
"The turn out this time was 8 percent higher compared to the turn out in 2004 run-off parliamentary vote that was around 20 percent," Alireza Afshar, head of Interior Ministry's election headquarters, told state television.
Reuters Last Mod: 26 Nisan 2008, 16:08