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Iranian Elections Spark Clashes, At Least 8 Dead

At least eight people have died in clashes in southern Iran in disputes over Friday's controversial parliamentary election. Early results show that Iran's Islamic hardliners have won by a landslide over the nation's reformist parties, but voter turnout was extremely low.

Officials in Iran's southern town of Firouzabad say violence broke out when people grew angry over an apparent win by a conservative candidate in the parliamentary election. In the town of Izeh, police and protesters clashed because of a dispute over election results.

Iran's Islamic conservatives look set to win control of the 290 member parliament, in an election that continues to generate controversy. The Interior Ministry says just 50.6 percent of Iran's 46 million eligible voters went to the polls, making it the lowest voter turnout since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The ballot was boycotted by most reformist parties after Iran's conservative Guardians Council barred more than 2,300 reformist candidates from running. Reformists call the move an attempt by the hardliners to cling to power.

That assertion was supported by the State Department, which has said the election was not free and fair.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi rejected Washington's charge. "We know that Americans are not welcoming real democracy here. What they are saying is only to make some pressure, to make some hue and cries on that. I believe the election was free and legal - that is what I can tell you," he said.

Iran's reformists swept to a two-thirds majority in parliament in the last election, in 2000, on promises they would liberalize society. But their moves have met with staunch resistance from hardliners, including the Guardians Council, an unelected body which can veto parliamentary decisions.

But analysts say those failures have brought about disillusionment throughout Iran, and apathy by voters, including 28-year-old Reza. He said he does not trust the results of the election because there is no difference between reformists and conservatives, they are all the same. He adds that everyone his age thinks the same way.

Final election results are expected this week.