Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Feature: Iranians keen to vote as presidential poll opens

Feature: Iranians keen to vote as presidential poll opens

Tight race in Iran's presidential electionIranians will soon head to the polls to vote for the next president.

The six-week campaign is over, and 55 million Iranians will vote in the first round of the presidential election today.

As previous elections cited above, Iranians will have the choice between two main candidates, the current president of Iran, Hassan Rohani, considered as a moderate and Ebrahim Raisi, former Attorney General of Iran and represents the conservative side. For example, he used to criticize the nuclear negotiations publicly, but privately instructed Rouhani to get the deal done so sanctions would be lifted. He is the country's chief executive and officially in charge of implementing the constitution and Iran's macro policies.

In addition, as nearly all the political oppositions had been wiped out since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, even if they have differences in their programs, the presidential candidates are all different branches of the same tree.

Suspicions that the Guards and the Basij militia under their control falsified voting results in favour of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to eight months of nationwide protests in 2009.

The only suspense is whether the incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, remains in office. He is seen by many as close to Khamenei and has even been talked about as a possible successor to him.

Smearing Rouhani as a corrupt and "pro-capitalist" elite also parallels 2005, when Ahmadinejad was able to successfully link corruption with economic mismanagement and popular disdain of ruling reformist-moderate politicians, particularly Rafsanjani.

"For me, Mr Rouhani's dialogue with the world and moderation in society are very important", said Zahra, a 32- year-old PhD student in food science. "We're not opposed, but do not crowd out other people".

His supporters streamed into downtown Tehran streets thick with police for rallies that lasted into the early hours Thursday, just ahead of a 24-hour no-campaigning period before the vote.

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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.

Raisi's history may deter some voters - the 56-year-old cleric was a member of the so-called "Death Commission", which presided over the summary executions of thousands of political prisoners in the summer of 1988. Mr Raisi has said he will not seek to tear up the nuclear deal. The council has never allowed a woman to run for president and routinely rejects candidates calling for dramatic reform, stifling change while ensuring the continuation of Iran's Shiite Islamic governance. According to the rules, if no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the votes plus one, the election enters a second phase: A run-off between the top two candidates.

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.

He has also hinted at a wider agenda which would advance human rights and curtail the IRGCs military activity, promising to lift the many remaining sanctions on Iran and asking for a convincing mandate to legitimise a push for greater change. Iran's presidents set the regional, global and diplomatic tone, but that tone is aimed at serving the objectives of the supreme leader and the IRGC.

For voter Hassan Rahmani, 34, in northern Tehran, maintaining good relations is key to Iran's future.

"His defeat would be a double edge sword for his ambition to succeed the current supreme leader: the election would raise his profile and broaden his support-base, but it would be a setback - albeit not a fatal one, as popularity is not the most determining factor for ascending to the pinnacle of power in the Islamic republic", Vaez told RFE/RL via e-mail.

A supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi hides her face using a poster of him during an election rally in Tehran, Iran, in 2009.

Under Iran's system, the president is subordinate only to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the ultimate say over all matters of state.

"We all want to show that we want to have freedom".

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