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In Iran vote, conservatives set to retain power

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A stone's throw from Ghalampour's polling station, half a dozen men – five older, one younger – enjoy tea in the morning sun. They refuse to vote, saying they've lost faith in politics. "All this is rubbish," says one of the men, nervously looking around and refusing to give his name. "It's all a lie ... everyone is sad because of the poor economy and high prices."

Conservatives seek large victory margin

Turnout has long been a critical benchmark in the Islamic Republic. Former president Mohammed Khatami's landslide victories in 1997 and 2001, with 80 percent and 67 percent turnout, drew upon a wave of expectations for change and easing of political and social restrictions that crushed conservative candidates.

Widespread anger at reform leaders for failing to keep those promises – and allowing conservatives to checkmate their progress at every turn – caused reformers, many of them young, to turn away from politics and punish their former heroes.

Today there is also widespread unhappiness with economic problems, and fierce criticism of Ahmadinejad's policy even from fellow conservatives. But the Islamic system does not want a repeat of the 2004 vote. Back then, conservatives wrested parliament back from reformists though turnout was just 51 percent nationwide, and only 40 percent in Tehran.

In Friday's election, conservatives viewed participation as a religious duty. Some even invoked the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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