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8 die in Iranian vote clashes as conservatives win
Updated: 2004-02-23 09:17

Eight people died in clashes with police in two towns in southern Iran over disputed results for a parliamentary election in which Islamic conservatives secured a big victory over reformists, local officials said Sunday.

Final figures for the vote, which was boycotted by leading reformists after hundreds of candidates were barred from standing, showed a record low turnout of 50.6 percent of Iran's 46 million eligible voters, the Interior Ministry said.

"A faction with the minimum backing of the people is going to take control of parliament," said Mostafa Tajzadeh, a senior member of the pro-reform Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Iran's clerical establishment hailed the election as a great success and boasted that the turnout shocked doomsayers and "enemies" abroad who had predicted a much smaller vote.

Analysts said many people stayed away from the polls as much out of frustration with President Mohammad Khatami's failure to deliver promised social, political and economic reforms as due to a boycott by his reformist allies.

Four people, including a policeman, died in clashes on Saturday in Firouzabad in the southern Fars province after the governor's office declared an unexpectedly high turnout in a tight race between a reformist and an Islamic conservative candidate, a local official told Reuters.

Another four were killed Saturday in the southwestern Khuzestan province when police clashed with a group of people protesting election results in the town of Izeh, the ISNA students' news agency reported, citing an unnamed official.

Post election disputes are not uncommon in Iran but they rarely lead to deaths. Voting in most of the country passed off peacefully and there were no major allegations of vote-rigging.


The 50.6 percent turnout was well below the 67 percent who voted in 2000 parliamentary elections. It also was the lowest in a parliamentary vote since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Turnout in the capital Tehran was around 29 percent, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. In Tehran province, which includes outlying towns and cities, it was 33 percent.

Iran dismissed Sunday U.S. criticism of its elections as a bid by Washington to undermine its democracy.

"The American government, from the beginning, was not very happy to see elections, or to see democracy institutionalized here," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi.

Interior Ministry figures showed conservatives, hostile to President Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms, made up 124 of the 194 members elected so far. A total of 289 seats were at stake.

A conservative majority could end Khatami's seven-year experiment in allowing greater freedom of speech and loosening social restrictions in the oil-rich state of 66 million.

Reformists won 52 seats, independents 18 and five were reserved for the religious minorities -- Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. In 55 districts where no candidate polled more than 25 percent there will be a run-off later.

With about one fifth of ballot boxes in the 30-seat greater Tehran electoral district counted, the main conservative bloc, the Alliance for the Advancement of Islamic Iran (AAII), held all 30 top places, the Interior Ministry said.

The AAII list includes six former revolutionary guard commanders, two founders of the Basij Islamic militia, four clerics, two former occupiers of the U.S. embassy in 1979-80, six women and a state TV producer held for four months in Iraq by U.S. occupation forces.

"People voted for us because they liked our programs and because they saw that our candidates would serve the people," said Ali Riaz, one of the successful AAII candidates.

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