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Hardliners face off in Iranian parliamentary elections

Iranians are voting in elections that pit the conservative supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei against hardline rivals backing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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An Iranian woman votes at a polling station in Tehran on March 2, 2012. Iran's 48 million voters are being called on to decide their next parliament today in elections whose turnout will be weighed to give an idea of support for the Islamic republic's regime. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranians are voting today in parliamentary elections which pit the conservative supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against hardline rivals who back President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Reuters reported.

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The elections are the first since the presidential poll in June 2009, which the opposition claimed was rigged in Ahmadinejad's favor.

A total of 290 members will be elected to the Majlis in a vote that Reuters reports is unlikely to significantly impact Iran's foreign policies – including its nuclear program – which are under the strict control of Khamenei.

Ahead of the poll, Khamenei urged Iranians to turn out in large numbers, the Associated Press reported. Khamenei said a high turnout would send a message to the West concerning its nuclear ambitions.

After casting his ballot in the capital Tehran early today, Khamenei said:

"Because of the controversies over Iran and increased verbal threats ... the more people come to the polling stations, the better for the country ... The higher the turnout, the better for the future, prestige and security of our country."

The opposition Green Movement, whose leaders have been under house arrest for more than a year, is not taking part in the election, which the AP reported may reveal a possible successor to Ahmadinejad in 2013.

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More than 48 million people are eligible to vote at an estimated 47,000 polling stations across Iran, the BBC reported.

Following a rift between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei in recent months, the BBC said its correspondents reported that some Ahmadinejad supporters had been “quietly calling for voters to stay away from the polls”.

Polling stations close at 6pm local time, with official results expected either Sunday or Monday.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/120302/iran-parliamentary-elections-face-khamenei-ahmadinejad