President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was facing a test of support today as Iranian voters feeling the pinch of a sanctions-hit economy decided their next parliament.
The legislative elections to fill the 290 seats in the parliament, known as the Majlis, were the first nationwide poll since Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election amid opposition calls of ballot fraud.
While that re-election sparked widespread protests brutally put down by security forces, today's poll passed off with no reports of disturbances or demonstrations.
That was largely because the only political struggle this time was between two conservative currents: those backing Ahmadinejad and those despising him for perceived nationalist intentions challenging their Islamic vision.
Iran's main opposition and reformist parties were boycotting the poll, with their leaders languishing under house arrest for the past year.
The regime, worried that disenfranchised reformist supporters with no real candidates to vote for could undermine its legitimacy through a low turnout, urged the country's 48 million voters to participate.
The interior ministry announced later today that it was extending voting hours by two hours to 2200 IST, to allow more ballots to be cast. It has done so many times in previous elections.
Officials said that halfway through the day they had numbers saying around nine percent more of the electorate had voted than in the previous legislative election in 2008, when a 55-per cent turnout was recorded.
Ahmadinejad's Support Tried by Sanctions-Weary Voters
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