Tehran: Voting was extended today in second round elections for almost a quarter of the seats in Iran's parliament, a crucial showdown between reformists and conservatives seeking to influence the country's future.
The polls will decide who has the most power when lawmakers are sworn in next month, opening or potentially closing a politically delicate path to even limited social and cultural change in the Islamic republic.
Tension over the vote's high stakes was dramatically underlined by a shooting involving supporters of rival candidates in a southern province. The rare political violence left four people wounded, a security official said.
Iran's reformists -- who have encouraged foreign investment, support moves for greater diplomatic rapprochement and seek social reforms at home -- are allied with President Hassan Rouhani's government and made major gains in the first round on February 26.
That came just six weeks after Tehran's implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers under the moderate Rouhani lifted crippling economic sanctions long blamed for hobbling the economy.
Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0330 GMT) for the second round which took place in 21 provinces, but not the capital Tehran, with 68 of parliament's 290 seats being contested.
Around 17 million citizens were eligible to vote in constituencies where no candidate won the minimum 25 percent required in the first round.
Voting had been scheduled to close at 1330 GMT but the interior ministry said polling stations would stay open two hours longer and then further time was added. No reason was given. Final results could come as early as Saturday.
Mehdi Saadatmandi, who voted in Robat Karim, a city southwest of Tehran, said he came to the ballot box "to finish what was done in the first round".
"If the economy is fixed, the politics will be fixed also and if the parliament is in line with the government then things will move forward much better," the 50-year-old said, opting for the reformists.
Conservatives, including vocal opponents of the nuclear agreement which reined in Iran's atomic programme, lost dozens of MPs in the first round, suffering a wipeout in Tehran where reformists took all 30 seats.