Middle East

Iran minister: Turnout in parliamentary elections 64%

An Iranian woman walks past a torn electoral poster for a parliamentary candidate a day after the elections in Tehran on March 3, 2012
Image caption Friday's elections to the Iranian parliament are the first nationally since the 2009 protests

Iran's interior minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar has said that initial figures show turnout in Friday's parliamentary elections was 64%.

Mr Najjar told state TV the high turnout meant "the great Iranian nation slapped the enemies in the face".

The preliminary figure came despite a boycott by the reformist opposition.

The elections are the first nationally since mass protests were sparked by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory in 2009.

Final figures for the make-up of the new parliament are expected on Monday.

Speaking on state TV, Mr Najjar said: "The Americans, the Zionists, and the enemies of the system made some claims. People slapped them by this action."

On Friday state TV broadcast pictures from several polling stations in Tehran and the provinces, showing long queues. A commentary said the queues were a "disappointment to the bad-wishers".

All of the candidates had to be pre-approved by Iran's Guardian Council, which meant that the contest was effectively between different conservative factions: largely, those who support President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The leaders of the opposition Green Movement have been under house arrest for over a year and were barred from taking part in the elections.

As part of an increasingly public fight between the leader and the president, even candidates favoured by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were disqualified from standing by the Guardian Council.

The Green Movement claimed that the 2009 presidential election was stolen from their candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The government sent security forces to put down the mass protests.

This time, reformists asked their supporters to stay at home on election day.

The respective strength of the different conservative camps after this poll will define the balance of power for what may be a much more important vote - the 2013 presidential election, says BBC Iran correspondent James Reynolds.

However, the results of the elections are unlikely to change Iran's stance on its controversial nuclear programme, he adds.