(MENAFN - Arab News) Iran yesterday declared an initial turnout of 64 percent in a parliamentary election shunned by most reformists as a sham.
Iran's leadership is eager to restore the damage to its legitimacy caused by the violent crushing of eight months of street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a 2009 vote his opponents said was rigged.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed the 2009 result, has since turned sharply against Ahmadinejad. Some early results from Friday's vote suggested the divisive president's supporters were losing ground in the 290-seat Parliament.
His sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, failed to win a seat in their hometown of Garmsar, the semi-official Mehr news agency said. Elsewhere, Khamenei loyalists appeared to be doing well.
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar put the turnout at 64 percent after more than 26 million votes had been counted, telling state television the Iranian nation had disappointed its enemies by voting in such numbers.
The figure was close to the 65 percent predicted for weeks by hard-line conservative leaders and the media.
Najjar said 135 seats had been won outright so far, with 10 going to a run-off.
According to a Reuters tally of the results announced in 126 seats, 81 went to Khamenei supporters, 9 to Ahmadinejad's faction, 7 to reformists and 7 to independents, with the allegiance of the remaining winners unclear.
The results are hard to compare with the outgoing Parliament because hard-line Khamenei and Ahmadinejad loyalists were united in the 2008 elections, taking about 70 percent of seats.
Results declared so far were mostly from rural areas, Ahmadinejad's traditional strongholds. Khamenei's candidates were expected to do well in Tehran and other big cities.
Khamenei, 72, had called for a high turnout to send a message of defiance to "the arrogant powers bullying us."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Iran's election was not free or fair. "The regime has presented the vote as a test of loyalty, rather than an opportunity for people freely to choose their own representatives," he said.