Presidential election in Iran - a referendum on Ahmadinejad

June 11th, 2009 - 6:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Tehran, June 11 (DPA) Friday’s presidential elections in Iran are gradually turning into a referendum on incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
According to surveys, the three challengers are more likely to benefit from protest votes against Ahmadinejad rather than votes in their favour.

“The sympathies and antipathies for and against the president will have a bigger impact on the election outcome than the programmes of the three rival candidates,” an election observer said.

The interior ministry predicts a record turnout in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic, with 46.2 million Iranians over the age of 18 eligible to vote. Both the presidential and the opposition camps hope to benefit from the high turnout.

It is widely expected that this time Iranians who are against the prevailing Islamic system but who have so far avoided elections will vote this time.

The three rival candidates of Ahmadinejad, 52, are Mir-Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaei. According to opinion polls, Moussavi, 67, has emerged as the president’s main challenger.

Ahmadinejad is the candidate of the establishment and supported by Iran’s powerful clergy, state media and the revolutionary guards.

Former prime minister Moussavi is backed by the moderate and reformist opposition coalition led by former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

Ahmadinejad claims that his government has returned “dignity and pride” to the Iranian nation and vows to continue this trend in the next four years.

Moussavi blames Ahmadinejad for pursuing radical policies and mismanagement which have led the country not only towards international isolation but also caused a recession and high inflation.

A novelty in the election campaign was the open and harsh rhetoric adopted by the two top candidates. Ahmadinejad and Moussavi even accused each other of lying.

For a long time it seemed that Ahmadinejad would easily win the polls, mainly because the opposition was locked in internal quarrels over who should be its presidential candidate.

By selecting Moussavi as the candidate, however, the opposition created the desired enthusiasm among the people, especially young Iranians, who form more than 60 percent of the electorate.

Moussavi chose the colour green as a symbol for change in Iran and hopes that his “Green Wave” will carry him to a victory over Ahmadinejad.

Voting on Friday starts nationwide from 8 a.m. (03:30 GMT) for 10 hours until 6 p.m. (1330 GMT). It is expected that voting will be extended until about 17:30 GMT.

The interior ministry said that the results would gradually be announced Saturday.

In case none of the four candidates receives the required absolute majority in the first round Friday, the election will be decided in a run-off between the two candidates with the most votes June 19.

There will be 45,713 polling stations throughout the country and 304 for Iranians abroad, including 32 in the US.

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