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Iranian Conservatives Heading For Victory

Tehran, 22 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Conservatives in Iran are poised to claim victory in parliamentary elections held Friday (20 February).

With more than two-thirds of the vote counted, conservative and hard-line candidates are on course to retake majority control of the 290-member Majlis from the reformists. Early unofficial results show that the hard-liners have won 135 out of 290 seats. Pro-reform candidates and independents have won approximately and 65 seats. A CNN correspondent in Tehran reported that hard-liners will be declared the winners in all 30 of the seats in the capital.

Pro-reformists had called for a boycott of the elections following the massive disqualifications of more than 2,400 reformist and moderate candidates by unelected conservative authorities in the Guardians Council.

Final voter turnout figures are not available, but reports estimate turnout at about 50 percent or less -- below the 67 percent recorded in the 2000 elections in which pro-reformists won a majority. In the capital Tehran, voter turnout was reported below 30 percent.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, said on state television that the parliamentary election is a blow to Iran's enemies and that the poll was completely free, legal, and "healthy."

At least six people were killed today in violent clashes with police over alleged vote-rigging in the country.

Final results are expected in the next couple of days.