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Iran's Reformers Claim Victory in Runoff Vote

Election: Pro-democracy candidates win 52 of 66 seats in what is seen as yet another setback for hard-liners.

May 07, 2000|From Associated Press

TEHRAN — Iran's reformers won 52 of the 66 seats contested in runoff legislative elections, the nation's largest pro-democracy party said Saturday.

The reformers' victory was seen as yet another setback for Islamic hard-liners fighting change.

The runoff was held three months after allies of Iran's reformist president won nearly 75% of the seats decided in the first round of voting for parliament, or Majlis.

If the runoff results stand, the reformers will have enough seats to easily control the 290-member parliament for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The reformers would also be in a position to grant greater social freedoms and weaken hard-liners' grip on key institutions.

But the hard-liners have shown that they won't give up willingly: Since their first-round defeat Feb. 18, they have moved to shut down 16 reformist newspapers and jail top liberal activists.

The hard-line Guardians Council, which oversees elections, annulled a dozen reformist victories from the first round. The council also has not endorsed the first-round results in Tehran, where reformers won 29 of the 30 seats.

Saturday's results are certain to put more pressure on the hard-liners. Mohammad Reza Khatami, head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the president's brother, called the results "a clear message" to those who have been resorting "to illegal means and seemingly legal pretexts to defeat this promising movement."

Besides the 52 seats won by reformers, hard-liners took 10 seats, and four seats went to independents, said Mhos Pirzadeh, an official at the headquarters of the Islamic Iran Participation Front. He said 43 winners were from his party.

Other reformist parties reported similar figures with small discrepancies. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency also confirmed that 10 hard-liners had won, but it reported 40 reformist victories and said it did not know the affiliations of 16 others.

Runoffs were held for races where no candidate received the minimum 25% of votes in the first round. Only the two front-runners from the last round were eligible.

President Mohammad Khatami's 1997 election ignited a huge movement for change, fueled largely by Iran's predominantly young population. Iranians are now watching to see whether the electoral victory will boost the reformers' power or open the way to more confrontation with hard-liners.

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