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Polls Finally Close In Iranian Parliamentary Election

Tehran, 20 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Polls in Iran's parliamentary elections have now closed and the counting of ballots has begun.

The Interior Ministry ordered polling stations to extend their opening times by several hours to accommodate what it termed as a "high turnout."

Earlier today, Iranian reformist President Mohammad Khatami called on voters to participate massively in the poll to create, in his words, a "surprise."

"What is important now is that people participate in the elections. If there is a high turnout, despite all the predictions and propaganda, once again people can bring about a surprise," he said.

Conservative hard-liners are widely expected to win the election from which most reformist candidates have been disqualified. Some reformists called for an election boycott in the hopes that a low turnout would undermine the authority of the result.

Earlier today, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said those who tried to deter young people from voting were enemies of the Islamic republic.