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Wary Iranians Give Leader a Second Term

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THE Iranian leader has won an ambiguous victory in presidential elections here, reducing the prospects that his program of economic reform will continue and endangering his efforts toward a limited rapprochement with the West.

President Hashemi Rafsanjani earned a second four-year term with 63 percent of the popular vote in balloting on Friday, according to figures released yesterday by Iran's Interior Ministry. In the days preceding the contest, Western diplomats and other observers had forecast that the president would emerge with more than 90 percent of the total.

Mr. Rafsanjani's nearest rival, an economic columnist and former labor minister with strong ties to the powerful religious community, did surprisingly well, taking 24 percent of the roughly 17 million votes cast.

Apathy ran high in the presidential contest, which senior officials had hoped would provide a sweeping mandate for Rafsanjani's program of economic and political liberalization. Instead, less than 60 percent of the eligible electorate cast ballots, far below the 80 percent participation level that officials had predicted late last week.

"This is a stunning disappointment for Rafsanjani," one diplomat here commented. "It was very much a referendum on the man and his policies. The low turnout says it all."

Government officials doubted the president would make an anticipated public appearance, given his relatively poor showing in the polls.

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