Parliamentary elections pit Iran's religious hardliners against its political hardliners - as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei square off vicariously. The opposition has boycotted Friday's vote.
Polling stations opened in Iran on Friday in an election that marks the widening rift between the religious right loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the populist right supporting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The remaining opposition groups in Iran, already weakened by a string of arrests and other crackdowns, have boycotted the vote.
Roughly 48 million Iranians are eligible to elect members of the 290-seat parliament in Tehran, with both conservative factions urging people to turn out en masse to show the country's legitimacy.
The Iranian economy, which is increasingly feeling the sting of Western sanctions targeting the oil and finance sectors, is one of the issues dominating the vote. The sanctions are a response to Iran's alleged ambitions to attain nuclear weapons. With the value of Iran's currency falling, the prices for staple goods like food - much of which is imported - have spiraled upwards in recent months.
No nuclear movement likely
With Iran's reformists practically marginalized, the country's two main conservative factions have appeared increasingly hostile towards each other, as political leader Ahmadinejad and religious leader Khamenei battle for control of the Islamic Republic. Once allies, the two lead figures have grown further apart in recent months. Matters first came to a head last April when Khamenei reinstated Iran's sacked intelligence minister, undermining a decision taken by Ahmadinejad.
As well as the reformist boycott, candidates for the parliamentary posts have been thoroughly vetted by the panel of six clerics and six jurists known as the Guardian Council, which turned down almost 2,000 would-be candidates, approving over 3,400.
More controversial issues on the international level, such as Iran's nuclear program or its oil policies, are effectively the responsibility of Ayatollah Khamenei - the outcome of Friday's vote is unlikely to herald any notable changes in these areas.
msh/bk (AP, Reuters)