Khatami and Neda: Former President Mohammad Khatami is criticised for his "betrayal" in voting in Friday's elections
2235 GMT: Elections Watch. Partial returns from Tehran indicate that only a few candidates will be elected to Parliament in the first round.
With more than a million ballots counter, only four candidates --- former Speaker of Parliament Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad-Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard, former Minister of Health Alireza Marandi, and leading cleric and MP Morteza Agha Tehrani --- are above the 25% threshold for election.
An EA correspondent predicts that, with all votes counted, only 10 candidates will make it to Parliament, leaving 20 seats to be decided in the second round.
Today, I spent an hour with Khatami and asked him about his voting. The first thing Khatami said in reply was, "he decision was very hard. I know I have upset a lot of friends and youth, but I had received a number of worrying news in the last two days about extremists having some plans, and I hope I have ruined their plan by my vote."
Khatami has said that on his vote paper, he has written “Islamic Republic”.
Nooraninejad said Khatami will have a "direct dialogue" with people in the near-future to "clear up some of the misunderstanding".
Former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi has said, "I assure you that Khatami has not voted to make the regime happy because the regime will not do any good to him....The decision of Khatami to vote is one of his wisest decisions. [The reason] will be clear in the near future."
2215 GMT: Elections Watch. The President's sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, who lost her bid for Parliament in Garmsar, has said, "I have witnessed a number of violation of laws which also have been witnessed by other people. And I will make a formal complaint about this."
2150 GMT: Elections Watch (Not A MediaFail). Finally, a summary of the first-round results in the Parliamentary vote which does not fall into the simple "anti-Ahmadinejad" trap (see 1435 and 1800 GMT) --- Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post writes:
“It is wrong to believe that camps are for or against the president,” said Hamid Reza Taraghi, a political analyst and spokesman for the Islamic Engineers coalition, a group of politically active merchants that has been critical of Ahmadinejad’s management of the economy.
For that reason, analysts said, the outcome of the vote will most likely be a continuation of the policies of the outgoing parliament: ongoing support for Iran’s nuclear program, strong criticism of Ahmadinejad, but — for now — no attempt to impeach him.
Even more striking is the website's graph comparing results for the Unity Front and the Islamic Constancy Front, which refused a unified slate in the elections? Unity Front's candidates took 44% of the vote, but it was candidates on both lists who had a majority share of 51%. Candidates who were only on the Constancy Front's lists --- generally seen as more symphathetic to the President --- had a meagre 5% of the ballots.
And an interesting side note: of more than 1 million ballots counted so far in Tehran, almost 100,000 were "spoiled". Why such a high rate? An EA correspondent evaluates, "The spoilage may indicate that some people voted just to get a stamp on their identity card, for example, for the sake of employment."
2000 GMT: Khatami Watch. After Mohammad Khatami's controversial decision to vote in Friday's elections, is this the end of the former President as a force in Iranian politics? Dissident Mohammad Reza Nourizad says, "He can speak for himself but never again in the name of the people."
Khatami's website is back up again after it was off-line this afternoon. Its front page is still promising a statement "soon" about the former President's decision to vote.
Out of 197 winners that emerged by midday Saturday, at least 102 were conservatives who turned against Ahmadinejad after he openly challenged Khamenei. Also elected were six independent candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad.
The remaining seats were split between Ahmadinejad supporters and centrists. At least 15 races will have to be decided in runoffs.
Among the prominent anti-Ahmadinejad victors were: Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, whose daughter is married to Khamenei's son; and parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who was Iran's former nuclear negotiator.
Consider Haddad Adel and Larijani, the only election victors named in the article. While Haddad Adel is close to the Supreme Leader, he not only ran for the Unity Front but for the Islamic Constancy/Resistance Front, seen as more supportive of the President
An EA correspondent notes, "Haddad Adel has visibly supported Ahmadinejad in recent weeks. If he becomes speaker, the President won't have too much trouble from the Majles. You can rule out impeachment straight away."
And Larijani, while taking on the Goverment on various lines, is also far more than an "anti-Ahmadiejad" politician. Note, for example, that he intervened --- probably on orders of the Supreme Leader --- to halt the impeachment of Cabinet Ministers last year.
In fact, if there is a story here, it could be that Haddad Adel and Larijani will be vying not with the President, but with each other to become the next Speaker of Parliament.
1745 GMT: Elections Numbers Watch. An EA correspondent passes on a report via Baztab Emrooz --- which is not working at the moment --- that authorities have reduced the number of eligible voters in Tehran by 2.5 million.
There were almost 8.8 million registered voter in Tehran and Alborz in 2009 but only 6.35 million this year.
Websites suggest that sudden reduction of Tehran's electoral roll by one-third would appear to be an attempt to boost the turnout --- as an example, 3.1 million turnout on a roll of 8.8 million is 35%; on a roll of 6.35 million, it is 49%, close to the official figure handed out today.
(Mehr is now claiming that there was a typo in its article, and only 280,000 ballots were cast.)
1639 GMT: Khatami Watch. Khodnevis reports that former President Khatami has promised an explanation for his "difficult decision" to vote in the Parliamentary elections; however, Khatami's site is currently unavailable.
Iran's oil sales to Japan, its third-largest customer, fell 12% in January compared with a year earlier, data from Tokyo's Ministry of Finance showed Tuesday. Tehran's oil was partly displaced by Saudi Arabia, whose exports to Japan shot up 19.6% in the period.
Spanish imports of Iranian crude—one of Iran's top three clients in the European Union—fell by 37% in December on a monthly basis, and Saudi Arabia filled much of that shortfall, according to data released Monday by Madrid's strategic hydrocarbons reserve board Cores.
1514 GMT: Elections Watch. The Voice of the Nation, the one faction offering the prospect of shaking up Iranian politics with its criticism of the Government and critique of the system, is not doing well in the counts. It appears that only current MP Ali Motahari will win a seat in the first round; Hamidreza Katouzian, the head of Parliament's Energy Committee, is only 54th in Tehran.
1510 GMT: Elections MediaFail. We have been wary of describing Parliamentary results with the simplicities "pro/anti-Supreme Leader" or "pro/anti-Ahmadinejad", as they will not reflect the complexities of the politics among the conservative and principlist factions. Witness the gathering failure amongst Iranian and international media....
Earlier today, Press TV announced, "75 percent of the candidates from the Principlist camp winning their way into the chamber, according to unconfirmed results".
Now "principlist" is a broad term which includes those critical of the President and those who support him, although almost all will profess loyalty to the Supreme Leader. But, for some reason, Press TV decided to make a further distinction: "Of the winners so far, 28 candidates are from the reformist camp, 10 from the team supporting the Government and 112 Principlist team comprising of the United Front, Perseverance Front and independent candidates."
So suddenly, every one of the "Principlist team", by implication, were not supporting the Government.
That is patent non-sense, given that some of the Unity Front's candidate are not hostile to Ahmadinejad. More importantly, the term "Perseverance Front" may or may not refer to the Islamic Constancy Front, which has a lot of members who are far from hostile to the President.
No matter. International media seized on this article and converted it into "Ayatollah Khamenei supporters win 75% of seat". Politically, that is meaningless, as Khamenei does not have a political faction; practically, it obscures the fact, as an EA correspondent noted, "the entire Parliament is 'Khamenei loyalists'." Note the opening to this Al Jazeera English item:
1420 GMT: Elections Watch. An EA correspondent passes on the accounts of the reporters of the Italian newspapers Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, "who managed somehow to evade the bus tour and roamed freely around town": "The picture, rather emphatically, was of deserted polling stations, people making fun of the translator who was asking for directions to the nearest polling station, and the "stolen" elections of 2009 constantly appearing as reason for voting boycott."
Meanwhile, we are watching the status of the two likely contenders for Speaker of Parliament, the current occupant Ali Larijani and former Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. Larijani is on top of the poll in Qom; however, his number of votes is dwarfed by those of Haddad Adel, who leads in Tehran.
A couple of big names are also in trouble. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar is only 26th in the Tehran results and may face a second round to get into the Majlis. Qasem Ravanbaksh --- the editor of the journal of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the leader of the Islamic Constancy Front --- is not in the top 30.
Outside Tehran reformist MPs Mohammadreza Khabbaz and Qodratollah Alikhani have failed to win in their constituencies. Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist MP who reportedly declared he was now a principlist, has also been defeated.
Iran...on Saturday declared an initial turnout of 64 percent in a parliamentary election shunned by most reformists as a sham....
Iran's Islamic clerical leadership is eager to restore the damage to its legitimacy caused by the violent crushing of eight months of street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a 2009 vote his opponents said was rigged....
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar put the turnout at 64 percent after more than 26 million votes had been counted, telling state television the Iranian nation had disappointed its enemies by voting in such numbers.
The figure was close to the 65 percent predicted for weeks by hardline conservative leaders and media....
No independent observers were on hand to monitor the voting or check the official turnout figures.
1330 GMT: All the President's Men. Fars reports that Presidential advisor Saeed Mortazavi, despite being formally suspended from his duties over his role in the Kahrizak abuses after the 2009 Presidential election, will become the new head of the Social Security Fund.
Mortazavi, then Tehran Prosecutor General, has been accused of responsibility for the abuses and deaths in the Kahrizak detention centre amidst post-election protests.
Meanwhile, citing the Minister of Interior, Fars proclaims that the turnout nationally was 65%, compared to 54% in the 2008 Parliamentary elections. It asserts that 48% of registered voters came out in Tehran, a sharp increase on the 30% figure four years ago.
Fars had said earlier this week that the national turnout would be 65.5%. That projection followed the assurance on 7 January by the Supreme Leader's representative, Ali Saeedi, that 60% to 65% of voters would cast ballots. A few days later, Ayatollah Khamenei said there would be an "enemy-busting" turnout of 65%.
But the observers of German channel ARD continue to raise doubts about Friday's outcome: "We did not see long queues."
AP, without giving details, claims, Out of 60 winners that emerged by Saturday morning, at least 46 were conservative opponents of [President] Ahmadinejad."Ali Motahari, the "maverick" MP who has led criticism of the Government, and Ahmad Tavakoli, also a prominent critic of the President, are reportedly doing well in Tehran.
Perhaps most significant, however, is the report that Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, former Speaker of Parliament and whose daughter is married to the Supreme Leader’s son, is leading in Tehran. As we projected earlier this week, this could pave the way for Haddad Adel to replace the current Speaker, Ali Larijani.
1034 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Industry sources reveal that India's largest shipping company was forced to cancel an Iranian crude oil shipment last month because European insurers refused to provide coverage for the vessel..
The tanker Maharaja Agrasen, owned by state-run Shipping Corp of India, was initially booked by refiner Indian Oil Corp. to load Iranian crude oil in mid-February, but could not get the necessary insurance coverage amidst European Union sanctions imposed on 23 January.
The Guardian has a contrasting report, presumably based in large part on shipments before 23 January, "India raised the amount of crude oil imported from Iran in January to 16.2m barrels. This represented a jump of 53% compared with the previous month and is two-thirds higher than average levels recorded last year."
1028 GMT: Media Watch. Amidst some very shaky international reporting --- the Financial Times and CNN stand out for Election Day mis-steps --- and the regime's restrictions on journalists, Scott Peterson's article for the Christian Science Monitor still stands out as a measured summary of the developments, "Iran Election Draws Conservatives: 'God, Please Accept This Vote from Me'".
1024 GMT: Elections Watch. Some early results have been posted from Iranian towns. Winners include Kazem Jalali of Parliament's National Security Committee, Mohammad Dehghan of Parliamentary's Supervisory Board, and three "moderate reformists".
1018 GMT: Fraud Watch. Away from the elections, Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei has said that the second session of the trial of defendants in the $2.6 billion bank fraud will be held before the end of the Iranian year on 20 March. He specifically said Mohamamad Jahromi, the former head of Bank Saderat and ex-Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, would be among those tried.
1010 GMT: Khatami Watch. Former President Mohammad Khatami has not safeguarded himself against criticism from the regime with his vote on Friday. Fars has called him the “internal overthrower”, warning against his "double act" and claiming he had to vote to save his political career.
0840 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani's barbed warning, as he voted on Friday, against regime manipulation of the elections has inevitably brought criticism. In a live programme on State broadcaster IRIB, a woman who introduced herself as a housewife said, "Even though I was not around in the Revolution and war period, I would like to say: “Long live Imam Khamenei and death to Hashemi Rafsanjani."
Another critic, Mahdi Kochakzade, said Rafsanjani had greatly insulted people, as he wanted to provide a base for the system’s enemies: "The reason for Rafsanjani saying this was because people ignored him during the  Presidential election and because the Assembly of Experts has removed him from his position [as head]."
0820 GMT: Elections Watch. Even though no official results have been announced, Fars claims some interesting outcomes.
The website posts that reformist Mohammad Reza Tabesh, the nephew of former President Khatami has been re-elected in Ardakan, but Mostafa Kavakebian, who tried to build a political base with a Democracy Front and reportedly said he had switched from the reformists to the principlists, did not get enough votes in Semnan to win in the first round.
Fars also writes that Gholam Reza Kaateb has defeated the President's sister Parvin Ahmadinejad in the Ahmadinejads' hometown of Garmsar.
0815 GMT: The Clerics Who Did Not Vote. While much attention is being paid to those clerics who cast ballots, from the Supreme Leader to Mohammad Khatami, the opposition site Rah-e Sabz notes eight Grand Ayatollahs and Ayatollahs who did not: Vahid Khorasani, Shobeiri Zanjani, Mousavi Ardebili, Sane'i, Sadegh Rohani, Sadegh Shirazi, Dastghaib, and Bayat Zanjani.
0730 GMT: Elections Watch. A telling example of the regime's efforts to portray its legitimacy by claiming the support of former President and leading reformist Mohammad Khatami....
For some time yesterday, observers were sceptical that Khatami had cast his ballot. The initial report in Fars only reinforced this scepticism, given the site's frequent re-writing of events. Fars only magnified this by using, in its illustration of the story, a photo of Khatami from a previous election.
This morning Fars finally tries to set the record straight with this blurred image:
0650 GMT: We begin the morning with one assessment of the political situation, Josh Shahryar's "Elections, Politics, and Political War", and later today we will post another, Scott Lucas's "The 'Invented' Election". Meanwhile, two glimpses to start the day....
The Media Drumbeat for "A Glorious Turnout"
No prizes for guessing the headlines in Iranian media, with the "celebration of the people's presence" and the failure of "an angry, disappointed enemy" over the record-breaking participation that supposedly occurred in Friday's Parliamentary election.
That concerted media campaign, scripted by regime officials not just yesterday but for many days before that, can claim some success. Combined with a sustained effort to shut down any observations by foreign media, apart from those of carefully-selected polling places, the official line conquers outlets such as The Washington Post. That newspaper headlines, "High Turnout Reported in Iran for Parliamentary Elections", even though its Tehran correspondent tips off the regime-manufactured scene: "It was difficult to verify turnout, with no independent monitors on the ground, [although] several polling stations in Tehran were receiving a constant stream of voters."
EA's Josh Shahryar summarises, "When you've shut down independent media, you can have whatever kind of turnout you'd like."
The Criticism of One Former President, The Clever Manoeuvre of Another
It will be a bad day for former President Mohammad Khatami. His indecision over how far to show opposition to yesterday's election finally gave way to a vote, seized upon by State media as proof of the legitimacy of the regime.
As Khatami had said there should be no participation unless conditions such as freeing of political prisoners and freedom of political parties were fulfilled --- and given that this did not happen --- he has been assailed by criticism from reformists and activists.
In contrast, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani crafted a careful but effective strategic manoeuvre. He cast his ballot, but he both aligned himself with the "people" and implicitly challenged the regime when he said, "God willing, the result will be what the people voted for."