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Iranians Go To Polls In Test For Ahmadinejad --> Ahmadinejad casts his ballot in Tehran today (Fars) December 15, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Iranians have begun voting for local councils and a powerful clerical body in the first electoral test for President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his allies since he swept to office in 2005.

The vote for city and rural councils and the Assembly of Experts will show if the president's rivals are regaining popularity even if the results have no direct impact on policy.

The two elections come at a time when Tehran is facing growing international pressure over its controversial nuclear program. Authorities have said a high turnout will prove popular support for the ruling government.

"We hope [our foreign opponents] will change and desist their grudge against the Iranian nation, because the nation of Iran has made a big decision and is moving with determination and authority on the path of greatness," Ahmadijejad told reporters in Tehran after he voted this morning.

Among the some 160 candidates approved to run in the elections there is only one is not a cleric. Some 500 candidates applied to be candidates in the assembly elections, but about two-thirds of them were disqualified.

(with material from Reuters)

The Structure Of Iran's Government

INSIDE THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC: Iran is a theocratic Islamic republic governed under a 1979 constitution that was revised in 1989, when presidential powers were expanded and the prime minister's post was abolished.
Appointed -- not elected -- offices and bodies hold the real power in the government. The supreme leader, who serves as a chief of state would, is appointed for life by an Islamic religious advisory board that is called the Assembly of Experts. The supreme leader oversees the military as well as the judiciary and appoints members of the Guardians Council and the Expediency Council.
The Guardians Council -- some of whose members are appointed by the judiciary and approved by the parliament -- works closely with the government and must approve political candidates and legislation passed by the parliament. The Expediency Council is responsible for resolving legislative disputes that may arise between parliament and the Guardians Council over legislation.
The president, who is popularly elected for a four-year term, serves as the head of government. The legislative branch is made up of a 290-seat body called the Majlis, whose members are elected by popular vote for four-year terms...(more)


RFE/RL's coverage of Iran.