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12 Mar, 2008 20:21

Iran gripped by election fever

Iran’s election of Friday may officially be for parliamentarians, but many commentators see it as a key test of President Ahmadinejad’s authority. The results will indicate if he’s likely to be re-elected next year.

Ahmadinejad’s pro-reform opponents fear their chances are low, since the country’s constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, has barred hundreds of candidates from running. Currently there are 20 times more conservatives than reformists competing for 290 seats of the parliament.

The President’s critics say the current government has destabilised the economy, which has led to inflation, expensive housing and unemployment. The second bone of contention is Iran’s current hard-line relationship with the West.

Analysts expect a high turnout of about 70 per cent, even though strict rules on campaigning have been imposed.

Amir Ahmadiyan, a political analyst, says no matter what the results are the newly elected body will fully co-operate with the President. “It’s like a football game. In national games, teams are against each other, but in a world cup they all stick together,” he said.

Iranians can vote from the age of 16 and almost half of the electorate is under 25.