Iranians turn out in large numbers for closely watched vote

Joanna Estrada
May 20, 2017

As Iran prepares to vote in its twelfth presidential election, Hassan Rouhani, the current incumbent, is facing decisive opposition to his reelection bid.

Women flash the victory sign as they wait to cast their ballots in the Iranian presidential elections at a polling station in Tehran on Friday.

Voting is scheduled to run until 6 p.m., though Iran routinely extends voting for several hours in elections.

The 56-year-old Raisi is said to be trusted by the country's most senior figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who as the holder of ultimate political, military, and religious power in Iran can easily derail a campaign or thwart the plans of a president.

Today, conservative criticisms of Rouhani should not be read simply as criticisms of the lack of economic benefits from the Iranian nuclear deal.

"Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that "how the elections in Iran will be taking place is exclusively within the competence of the Iranian people".

She politely refused to talk about her choice, but seemed to be resolute at heart on her pick who, Taherkhani confidently contended, is an experienced and responsible politician and knows how to address the values most young people cherish.

There are also two other minor candidates, Mostafa Mir-Salim, who represent the Islamic Coalition Party, a conservative political party that favors economic liberalism and Mostafa Hashemitaba, a reformist candidate close to the former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The incumbent, relative moderate Hassan Rohani, and a conservative former prosecutor, Ebrahim Raisi, are widely regarded as the presidential front-runners in the clerically dominated Islamic country of around 81 million people, which is laboring under high unemployment and struggling to seize economic opportunities overseas.

In articulating its stance towards the charade of these presidential elections, the Tudeh Party has stated: "Non-participation in the election and declining to vote for the candidates of the theocratic regime is neither a blind act nor a passive one".

If they turn out to vote in large numbers, while more urban, more sophisticated voters express their disappointment with Rouhani's failure to work miracles by staying at home, it is entirely possible that he will beat Rouhani and become the next president.

Every four years for almost the last four decades, Iran's elections fool many into believing they are democratic and dynamic.

Rouhani, the "moderate", has nothing to present to the Iranian voter, according to Alavi.

"We have no other way, but to endear a tolerant space, to accept each other's existence, to live up with diverse opinions and tastes, then to grow up as a descent mother, father or politician for the good of next generation", Taherkhani, the master's graduate of social science from Tehran's Azad Markazi University, argued.

Speaking on May 8, Rohani said voters did not want someone who in the four decades since Iran's 1979 revolution has only known how to "execute and jail", adding that the era of extremists is over. But they are anxious to keep out Raisi, who they see as representing the security state at its most fearsome: in the 1980s he was one of four judges who sentenced thousands of political prisoners to death. If no candidate takes more than 50%, however, a runoff between the top two finishers will be held May 26. Authorities barred Ahmadinejad from running in Friday's election, and Khamenei warned this week that anyone fomenting unrest "will definitely be slapped in the face". "Relations between Iran and Turkey will not experience major changes with Rouhan and, in fact, may be even further enhanced not only with Turkey but also with other countries in the region as well...."

Although Rouhani has an incumbent's advantage, his promised economic revival is seen by many as having fallen short of his stated goals, and he has been the target of unceasing and strong allegations of corruption.

Lined up in front of the mosque, Mohsen Namazi, 24, a bank clerk spirited by the high turn-out of the voters, constantly leaned back and forth, right and left, to observe the number of people in the queue and their passion for the occasion. On the last day of campaigning, candidates were out trying to rally support.

"We want freedom of the press", he declared.

That would be Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's so-called Supreme Leader.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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