Mar 2 - Iranians vote in a parliamentary poll likely to bolster Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's power over rival hardliners led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sunita Rappai reports.
Casting his vote - Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joins thousands of his fellow citizens as the country goes to the polls for parliamentary elections. While the Iranian president looked relaxed, the polls are widely expected to reinforce the power of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The two hardline conservative groups have been locked in a fierce power battle since Ahmedinejad challenged Khamenei over a number of policies last year. No major reformist parties are taking part - they were kicked off the stage after riots following Ahmedinejad's controversial re-election in 2009. Leaders are hoping a high turnout will ease accusations of fraud in 2009, which plunged the Islamic Republic into the worst unrest of its 33-year history. Terhran's conservative mayor, Mohammad Bager Qalibaf, seen by some as a possible future presidential contender was another figure casting his vote in Tehran, while former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - an Ahmedinejad opponent - also cast his vote. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani returned to his birthplace in the holy Shi-ite sity of Qom to cast his ballot. Members of Iran's tiny Jewish community also turned out to vote in the capital's central synagogue. (SOUNDBITE)(Farsi) 19 YEAR-OLD JEWISH VOTER, SHAHIN SOLEIMANI, SAYING: "This is my first vote. I have come to vote in the parliamentary election so that I can choose my own MP, and not allow others to choose one for me." The election is unlikely to impact Iran's foreign policies, including its disputed nuclear programme, already heavily controlled by Khamenei. But it could allow the clergy to strengthen its hand in determining Iran's political landscape in the run-up to presidential elections next year. Sunita Rappai, Reuters