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Iran Holds Parliamentary Elections - 2004-02-20


Voting is under way in Iran's parliamentary election, where conservatives are all but guaranteed to regain a majority, and the only real question is voter turnout.

Reformists say the ballot is a sham, and called for a boycott in hopes a low turnout will send a message that Iranians reject the decision of the cleric-appointed Guardian Council to disqualify the vast majority of reformist candidates.

Conservatives, led by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for a massive turnout of the 46 million Iranians age 15 and over eligible to vote. Ayatollah Khamenei was among the first to go to the polls today (Friday), where he told state television he is confident Iran's young people would not be deterred from their duty.

The head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran that people advising Iranians not to vote are traitors to Islam, and to the country.

With hours to go before the polls close (at 14-30 UT), some polling stations were nearly empty, while others saw a steady stream of people casting votes.

Reformists won a solid parliamentary majority four years ago in the 290-member body, but legislation on social and political reform has been routinely blocked by the Guardian Council, which has oversight powers and is hand-picked by Ayatollah Khamenei.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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