Iranians Head to the Polls
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urges high turnout
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 2, 2012 6:31 AM CST
Iranian women sit on a bench next to a board with posters of an election candidate, Shahla Mahmoudi, one day before Iran's parliamentary elections in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 1, 2012.    (Kamran Jebreili)
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(Newser) – Iran's supreme leader urged Iranians to vote in large numbers as the country holds parliamentary elections today, saying a high turnout would send a strong message to the enemies of the nation amid the nuclear standoff with the West. The balloting for the 290-member parliament is the first major voting since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 and the mass protests and crackdowns that followed.

It is unlikely to change Iran's course over major policies—including its controversial nuclear program—regardless of who wins, but it may shape the political landscape for a successor to Ahmadinejad in 2013. And with the opposition effectively crushed, the elections amount to a popularity contest between conservative supporters of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and their rivals who back Ahmadinejad. A high turnout will be seen as a major boost for Iran's ruling Islamic system, showing popular support and allowing it to stand firm in the standoff over its nuclear program.