(REUTERS – 4TH MAY) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei voted on Friday (May 4) in a run-off parliamentary election that could establish a new balance between Iran’s top leader and its president in the legislative assembly.
With reformists mostly sidelined and opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi under house arrest, the vote is mostly a duel between rival conservative hardliners – those loyal to Khamenei and those in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s camp.
State television reported that polling stations in 33 constituencies, including the capital Tehran, opened to voters at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT). They are due to close at 6 p.m. (1430 GMT), although officials have said the time could be extended.
Some 65 seats from the 290-member assembly are up for grabs.
In the race for the 30 seats in Tehran, five candidates were able to secure victory in the first round and about 50 are competing for the remaining 25 seats, Iranian media reported.
Candidates allied to Khamenei, dominated the first round of elections in early March at the expense of those supporting Ahmadinejad.
With more than 50 percent of seats filled by new members, the new parliament – which will convene in late May – will undergo radical change.
Khamenei called for a high turnout in Friday’s second round.
The parliamentary vote has been seen as a test for the popularity of Iran’s clerical establishment, which was rocked by the bloody aftermath of a 2009 presidential vote that reformists said was rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favour.
Khamenei had swiftly endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009, rejecting opposition allegations of widespread fraud that led to eight months of unrest.
But a rift opened between the two leaders when the president tried to undermine the leading political role of clergy in the Islamic Republic, Ahmadinejad’s critics said.
Turnout in the first round of parliamentary election was 64 percent. The interior ministry has said final results were expected within 24 hours after the polls close.