Khatami calls for large turn-out

17 February 2004
President Khatami on 16 February urged Iranians to turn out in force for the 20 February parliamentary elections to prevent a conservative landslide. Reformists are preparing themselves for defeat after the hardline Guardian Council banned more than 2,500 - mostly reformist - candidates from standing in the polls (MEED 16:2:04).

'Even though at one stage there was some unfairness against parliamentarians and other qualified candidates, if people don't turn out it will open the way for a minority to control the fate of the country,' the official IRNA news agency quoted Khatami as saying. 'Surely there are many people who feel that in many constituencies, they don't have their favourite candidates, but they can choose the ones who have ideas which are closest to theirs,' he said.

But observers say that the week-long campaigning has been unusually low-key and that the turn-out is expected to be small. 'My guess is that in big cities under 20 per cent of voters will come to the ballot boxes,' the president's brother and leading reformist Mohammad Reza Khatami said. 'I think the percentage across the country will be under 50 per cent... A majority of young people will not come and vote.'

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