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The BBC's John Simpson
"Young people want to be involved in the political process"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran
"Nowhere is immune from the winds of change"
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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 06:19 GMT
Final campaign day in Iran

Youngsters clap hands at the rally-cum-concert Unprecedented scenes viewed by some as un-Islamic

Campaigning has entered its last day in Iran ahead of Friday's crucial legislative elections.

Thousands of young people gathered on Tuesday in central Tehran for a rally by the centrist Executives of Construction party that was part pop concert, part political meeting.

In a rare display of public gaiety, those present at the Shiroudi Stadium held hands and danced to the music after hearing a brief speech by female reformist candidate Faezeh Hashemi.

They have reached adolescence today and they want to get out and be involved politically
Faezeh Hashemi
Newspapers close to Iran's dominant conservative clerics have attacked as immoral such activities as singing, dancing, loose Islamic headgear and the wearing of make-up at election rallies by supporters of reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

But Ms Hashemi - the daughter of the pragmatic former President Hashemi-Rafsanjani - said youth rallies with pop music were now part of Iran's political landscape.

The elections to parliament, or Majlis, are the liveliest since the 1979 Islamic revolution brought clerics to power. For the first time since then, the conservatives are facing real opposition.

Sign urges Iranians to vote A sign urges Iranians to vote
In a bid to forestall a victory for those who favour change, they are warning voters the country's Islamic values are in danger.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei hit out at the reform camp on Tuesday, saying the "enemy" was speaking through them.

He called on the electorate to vote "with open eyes in order to disappoint Iran's enemies".

And he said the election was a chance for Iranians to prove the strength of their political system, and to prove foreign critics wrong.

"The people should smack them in the mouth," he advised.

Power struggle

President Khatami's landslide victory in 1997 against a candidate of the hard-line religious establishment opened up Iranian politics.

Iranian 2000 election
38.7 million people eligible to vote
There are 6,000 candidates
The candidates are contesting 290 seats in the first round
Those with 25% of the vote are elected in first round
But his reform plans were often obstructed by the outgoing parliament, in which the balance of power favoured the conservatives.

Friday's vote is the first parliamentary contest in which political parties have vied for some 38.7 million votes.

Campaigning was only allowed for a week leading up to the poll and stops two days before voting.

Mohammad Khatami Mr Khatami has called for a repeat of his landslide
Some 6,000 candidates are contesting the 290 seats in Friday's first round, with multiple-member constituencies in the main cities giving voters a bewildering array of choices.

Those who win 25% of the vote are elected on the first ballot.

Many Iranian political analysts believe the conservatives will lose their control of the Majlis.

But they say the question is whether reformists will win outright control on their own, or whether they will be dependent on support from moderates, such as the Executives of Construction, loyal to Mr Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Khatami urges reformist landslide
30 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Poll test for Iran reformists
29 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Iran election short-list cut by 670
15 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Countdown to Iran elections

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