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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Iran run-off goes ahead
woman voting
Without Friday's vote, the reformist parliament elected in February would be unable to sit
Iranians have cast their votes in a crucial run-off ballot for 66 seats which remained undecided after February's general election.

Reporters said the turn-out appeared low, but this was less important than the fact that the second stage was being held at all.

In February's vote, reformist supporters of President Khatami scored a clear victory, but without the re-run, the new parliament would not have the quorum to convene.

Many people in Iran believe that this is what some of the defeated hardline conservatives wanted to achieve.

Voting peaceful

Polling was extended for an hour or two in nearly all constituencies to accommodate what officials called a late rush.

The battle has seen reformist papers closed

Vice-President Hassan Habibi said there had been no incidents to marr the voting.

The first results are expected to be announced late on Saturday.

But they are not expected to change the overall picture of a substantial reformist victory.

Hardline forces

Since February, there have been ominous signs of a counter-offensive by hardline forces.

  • A leading reformist figure, Saeed Hajjarian, was shot and seriously wounded by right-wing vigilante extremists.
  • Sixteen reformist publications were shut down on the orders of the largely conservative judiciary in April.
  • Several reformist journalists and other prominent liberals were arrested and jailed.

These developments raised doubts over whether the new reformist parliament would be able to convene as scheduled on 27 May.

The reformist president, Mohamad Khatami
The reformist president, Mohamad Khatami, has tried to overcome hardline resistance

In addition to the undecided 66 seats, the results of the Tehran vote also remain invalidated because of disputes and endless recounts, which are still continuing, two and a half months later.

The Tehran vote covers a further 30 seats.

Without those, or the run-off seats, parliament would lack the necessary quorum and would not be able to sit.

Even if the parliament were able to convene but lacked the powerful Tehran reformists, the reform movement would be gravely weakened.

This would undermine President Khatami's programme of social and political reforms.

However, the former head of the judiciary and leading conservative, Ayatollah Yazdi, announced on Friday that the Tehran results would definitely be declared next Wednesday.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, played a key role in insisting that the constitutional process must be followed.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iran names second round election date
21 Feb 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Obstacles to change
28 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iranian president calls for calm
26 Apr 00 | Middle East
How far will Iran's conservatives go?
23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's unique election
07 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iranians riot after vote annulled
11 Mar 00 | Middle East
Reformist victories cancelled in Iran
22 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran vote welcomed
02 Feb 00 | Iran election news
Iran elections: Special report
27 Apr 00 | Middle East
Mixed signals ahead of Iran poll
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