Iran Holds Parliamentary Election Runoff

Iran on Friday held a parliamentary election run-off to decide 65 seats still outstanding in its 290-member legislature following a March 2 first round.

The vote, whose results are due out in the coming days, was seen as unlikely to change the political direction of the predominantly conservative chamber, though it could help lay the ground for 2013 presidential elections.

The little support current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds in the outgoing parliament was expected to be eroded further when the new legislature starts work at the end of this month.

Conservative MPs of various stripes easily triumphed in the first round. But with half of them new faces, it will take some time to see how exactly that conservative force is configured.

That first round was the first nationwide election held in Iran since 2009, when Ahmadinejad was returned to power based on disputed results that provoked widespread protests and a severe crackdown by authorities.

Iran's reformist movement has since largely stalled, with its main leaders under house arrest and principal blocs boycotting the parliamentary polls.

The main contest going on behind the scenes in parliament is now a battle for the position of speaker.

Outgoing speaker Ali Larijani, who won his seat in the holy city of Qom in the first round, has the support of his United Conservative Front supporters to return to the post.

But he faces competition from Gholam Ali Hadad Adel, who was speaker before him and who is a close adviser to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hadad Adel easily won his seat in Tehran in the first round.

According to figures given by officials, the first round turnout was 64 percent. They presented that as an electoral success following the violent protests of 2009.

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