Iranians are voting Friday in parliamentary elections, which are expected to keep power in the hands of the country's conservative faction.
More than 40 million eligible voters will cast ballots for 4,500 candidates nationwide competing for 290 seats in the parliament (the Majlis). But Iran's Guardian Council, a religious oversight group, disqualified 1,700 candidates, many of them reformists and opponents of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Council said the rejected candidates did not display enough loyalty to Iran's Islamic system.
With so few reformists running, some analysts expect a low voter turnout. Key issues before the electorate include Iran's high inflation and unemployment, and how President Ahmadinejad deals with the West. Early results could begin coming in Saturday, but complete election returns are not expected for several days.
The VOA Middle East correspondent reports the election is largely a contest between two rival conservative factions, one more closely allied to Mr. Ahmadinejad and the other favoring a more pragmatic approach to issues such as Iran's dealings with the West over its nuclear program.
The Supreme National Security Council decreed that subjects such as Iran's nuclear program were off limits for public discussion, so many issues barely have been mentioned during campaigning. Instead, local or domestic matters, such as pollution, have been the focus in many districts.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.