DATE=2/17/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=IRAN ELECTIONS (L) NUMBER=2-259272 BYLINE=SCOTT BOBB DATELINE=CAIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Voters in Iran are preparing to go to the polls Friday to choose a new parliament. V-O-A Correspondent Scott Bobb in Tehran reports that most candidates are running as independents, but many of them have affiliated with coalitions. And as a result, the election is shaping up as a contest between reformists and conservatives. TEXT: As election officials prepare to open polling stations across Iran, leaders of both the reformist and conservative alliances are predicting victory. The leader of the reformist Participation Front and the president's brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, called the campaign a victory for the people. /// KHATAMI ACT /// Whatever the result will be, many things that we want happened. And the result of the election will be in favor of the reformers in Iran. /// END ACT /// Candidate Khatami said the reform movement is advancing steadily, and he predicted 60-percent of the parliamentary seats will go to reformists and their allies. However, leaders of the main conservative alliance, called the Followers of the Line of the Imam, predicted they will control the next parliament. Spokesman Hassan Ghafourifad said the conservatives and their allies expect to win a majority. /// GHAFOURIFAD ACT - IN FARSI - FADE UNDER /// Doctor Ghafourifad said he believes in voter loyalty to Iran's supreme leader and as a result the group will have a majority, like in the two previous parliaments. Both the conservatives and the reformists include centrist candidates in their calculations. Iranian observers say this indicates that the centrist coalition led by the Construction Party is likely to wield considerable influence in the next parliament and could become the main power broker. /// REST OPT /// Many Iranians see signs in this election that a multi- party political system may be emerging. Parties were banned following the revolution, but in recent years a score of political groups have emerged and some have been registered as parties. The editor-in-chief of the reformist Asr-e Azadegan newspaper, Hamidreza Jalei-pour, says many groups have joined forces in opposition to the conservative status quo, but this he says may change. /// JALEI-POUR ACT /// Little by little, we will have in the future three poles of the political party(ies), left, right, and center. /// END ACT /// Iranians say in past elections, the political leanings of many politicians and their groups often were not clearly defined, leading to voter confusion. And they say the similarity of the discourse of the candidates gave few alternatives and led to voter apathy. However, they say this election has been different. Although the outcome is still not certain, they say the process has certainly evolved. (Signed) NEB/SB/JWH/LTD/gm 17-Feb-2000 12:18 PM EDT (17-Feb-2000 1718 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .