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The BBC's John Simpson reports
"The old rules and regulations are getting easier"
 real 28k

Religious affairs correspondent Jane Little
"Tension between democratic and theocratic principles"
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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 14:06 GMT
Iran set for election fight

Iran Iran's choice: Reformers or hardliners

Reformist and conservative factions in Iran are preparing for a parliamentary election which will decide the direction that the country takes in the coming years.

Iran's elections
38.7 million eligible to vote
6,000 candidates
Candidates are contesting 290 seats in the first round
Those with 25% of the vote are elected in first round
Polling stations open on Friday with voters getting a straight choice - conservatives who say they will protect the Islamic state or reformists who talk of opening up the country.

Newspaper editorials have reflected how high the stakes are for the candidates and leading figures on both sides of the political divide.

Reformist papers are urging a vote for a more open society while, the hardline Jomhuri Islami, warns that a vote for reformists would deal an "irreparable blow" to the principles of the 1979 Revolution.

President Mohammad Khatami, the reformer who won power by appealing to women and young voters, hopes the same strategy will give his supporters control of the parliament, or Majlis.

Reformist rally Reformist rallies have attracted large numbers
But in Tehran's teeming bazaars opinion has been split over which way the country should go, and the president's record is being examined.

Some fear an influx of western culture and a more permissive society if the reformist parties gain power.

Others say President Khatami has already weakened Islamic values and are critical of his economic policies.

Younger traders, however, are firmly behind the president. One of them, Farhad Nowtash, said: "More than any other politician, Khatami wants this country to prosper."

Day of destiny

President Khatami has urged supporters to use their vote in what he described as a day of destiny.

He said: "By voting, the people will not only demonstrate their will but they will help the president and the government realise their ideas."

Ayatollah Khamenei: Conservatives are confident
The elections come at a defining moment for the Islamic state as conservatives and reformers continue to battle over how far the Islamic Constitution allows for change.

Conservatives used their domination of the outgoing Majlis to inflict a number of defeats on the president as they fought to protect what they regard as the pillars of the Islamic state.

The biggest conservative coalition has predicted that it would hold on to half of the Majlis.

But most analysts expect the conservatives to lose their majority. They say the question is whether the reformists will gain an outright majority or need the support of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and his centrist party to get legislation passed.
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Full coverage of Iran's landmark elections and the battle for reform
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See also:
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Khatami urges reformist landslide
17 Feb 00 |  Middle East
In pictures: Iran prepares for polls
17 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Iran's 'violent political game'
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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