Iranians queue for crucial elections

2016-02-26 18:02
Iranian election workers await voters in the elections at a polling station in Qom. (Ebrahim Noroozi, AP)

Iranian election workers await voters in the elections at a polling station in Qom. (Ebrahim Noroozi, AP)

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Tehran - Long lines formed on Friday and voting was extended as Iranians cast ballots in an election test for President Hassan Rouhani, who hopes to curb conservative dominance after a nuclear deal with world powers.

The Islamic republic's ultimate authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was among the first to cast a ballot and urged the country's 55 million eligible voters to follow suit, as "it's both a duty and a right".

As well as picking 290 members of parliament, the electorate will also vote to select the Assembly of Experts, a powerful committee of 88 clerics that monitors Khamenei's work and may choose his successor.

There were long queues at polling stations in Tehran and state television showed similar scenes in other cities, with officials speaking of high turnout, which is likely to benefit reformers.

Nuclear accord

Voter participation in parliamentary elections four years ago was at 64% nationwide and 48% in Tehran and Rouhani has urged voters to flock to the ballot box this time.

With many still waiting to cast ballots when polls were supposed to close at 18:00. the interior ministry said voters would be given an extra two hours.

A higher turnout would help Rouhani and his reformist allies, after many moderate voters stayed away in 2012 in protest at the disputed re-election three years earlier of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This year's polls are especially important as they come just one month after sanctions were lifted under the nuclear accord, so the outcome will be seen as a de-facto referendum on Rouhani's administration.

Lawmakers are elected for four years but the assembly has eight-year terms. Should Khamenei, who is 76, die during that time its members would pick his replacement.
Read more on:    hassan rouhani

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