Iranians Flock to Polls in Presidential Election

Observers expect record turnout in the election to choose between Ahmadinejad and three rivals.

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Iranians flocked to the polling stations Friday in record numbers to choose between hard-line incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and three rivals. It's an election that could mark a turning point in Iran's 30-year-old Islamic revolution. At several polling stations across Tehran, long lines formed even before they opened. Observers had expected high turnout, and many said the race was too close to call.

Ahmadinejad's main rival is Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformist who favors greater media freedom and negotiations with world powers over the country's controversial nuclear program. If elected, Mousavi, the leader of a powerful youth-driven movement, could accept President Barack Obama's call for more dialogue between Iran and the United States. But any change would be tempered by the fact that the ruling clerics, headed by the unelected supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, directly control the country's broad policy.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the Obama administration is watching the election closely but said that "no matter who is elected, we would wait and see what kind of policies are followed by that person. It's less dependent on personalities than it is the policies that the leaders follow."

The results of the election won't be released until Saturday, at the earliest. If none of the four candidates wins more than 50 percent of today's vote, the top two contenders will compete in a second round a week later.