There are few campaign posters in central Tehran, flyers go ignored and reformist candidates’ rallies draw small crowds
As Friday’s presidential election nears, there are just a few posters displayed in central Tehran for the presumed leading candidates – the city’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and Hassan Rowhani, nuclear negotiator during the administration of the former president Mohammad Khatami. Posters for the hardline favourite Saeed Jalil and the reformist Mohammad Reza Aref, are even rarer sightings. (Aref has just pulled out of the race.)
On Monday afternoon in north Tehran’s Tajrish Square, supporters of Ghalibaf and Rowhani attempting to hand out flyers to passersby were largely ignored. At one point a group of 10 Rowhani campaigners began to chant “Our vote is for reform!” A woman yelled at them: “Didn’t you all learn from the last election? Our votes don’t count. Shame on you all! What happened to your intelligence?”
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformists’ standard-bearer in 2009, was able to draw on large numbers of young people for his campaign, but the crowds for Aref and the semi-reformist Rowhani have been substantially smaller.
The security presence on the streets has increased during the last week of the campaign, especially at dusk. Half a dozen police vans are present in every major square in Tehran as the sun goes down, and motorcades of security personnel have roared down the city’s main streets during recent nights. The sight of them brings back memories of the crackdown on the protests that followed the announcement four years ago that Mousavi had lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a result many Iranians are convinced was fraudulent.
In an attempt to ensure that voter turnout will be high this year despite the lack of a compelling contest, the government decided to hold local council elections on the same day for the first time. Government employees and those whose careers rely on state certification are afraid not to vote, as their participation in the elections is recorded (though who they vote for is not known) and is rumoured to be taken into consideration by various authorities for promotions, benefits and other decisions.
The economy, which has been buffeted by international sanctions, is the main issue on voters’ minds. “If I see that any one of these candidates really has a plan for improving the economy, I will vote,” said Sara, a 25-year-old engineer who voted for Mousavi last time. “Though I’m disappointed that there are so many conservatives on this year’s ballot, we need someone who can truly fix this economy.”
“I don’t know if I will vote or not,” said Meisam, a 30-year-old businessman. His once successful import company went bankrupt in December, which he attributes to the effect of sanctions. “I’m not sure if my vote will matter this year, and I don’t support any of these candidates. But who knows … we need things to take a turn in this country. Maybe I will go to the polls. I’m stuck for now.”
By The Guardian
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