| An Iranian girl yawns as she waits for her mother to vote in the Iranian embassy in the Jordanian capital Amman on Friday. (Reuters)
Tehran, June 24 (Reuters): Iran today extended voting in a presidential run-off election between moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state television reported.
It quoted the interior ministry saying that polling stations would now close at 1830 GMT, four hours later than originally scheduled. The polls opened at 0430 GMT.
Interior ministry officials said intimidation and other abuses had marred the tense run-off.
Political analysts said the race was too close to call, with Iran’s 67 million people split on class lines and tensions high.
The outcome could determine the future of Tehran’s ties with the West and fragile liberal reforms, although the final say on nuclear policy and all matters of state lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran’s system of clerical rule.
The interior ministry officials said they had asked for some polling stations to be closed. But the ministry cannot act without the consent of the hardline Guardian Council watchdog.
The council noted this, but did not say if it had approved any requests, the official news agency IRNA said.
There was no immediate comment on the allegations of election abuses from the Ahmadinejad camp.
Voting was earlier extended by three hours until 1730 GMT to allow more of the 47 million eligible voters to cast ballots. In the first round last Friday, voting was extended several times and finally stopped at 1830 GMT.
The interior ministry, dominated by reformists who back Rafsanjani, said it had requested a halt to voting in six Tehran polling stations because of irregularities such as the presence of Basij religious militiamen, Iran’s ILNA news agency reported.
“Some people want to spoil the elections,” said ministry spokesperson Jahanbaksh Khanjani.
“But the interior ministry and the intelligence ministry will follow up and won’t let anyone abuse these elections.”
Reformist candidates, who lost in the first round, have previously accused the Revolutionary Guards and Basij of campaigning for former Basij member Ahmadinejad, who dismisses such charges. Officially such bodies should be neutral.
“It is necessary to temporarily stop the voting process at such centres, end all such activities, and then resume the elections,” Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said in a letter to regional governors, IRNA reported.
Another news agency, ISNA, quoted the interior ministry as saying police had arrested a senior ministry official at a polling station after he warned the representative of an unnamed candidate against committing “irregularities”.
Rafsanjani aide Gholamhossein Karbaschi said police had harassed and arrested several Rafsanjani representatives.
An interior ministry source said some women were prevented from voting in north Tehran, a Rafsanjani stronghold, for inappropriate Islamic dress.