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Thursday, June 11, 2009
Time to vote
By Salman Ansari Javid & Mehdi Nowruzvandian
TEHRAN - During the past few weeks of the presidential campaign, the level of passion and enthusiasm shown by the voters reached an unprecedented level. Supporters of various camps gathered in the main squares and intersections of the capital and stayed way past midnight, honking their horns and chanting slogans supporting their candidates.
The campaigning officially stops at eight o’clock this morning. Now, voters will have to make their final decision by Friday. The director of the Election Campaign Headquarters, Kamran Daneshjou, declared that there will be 45,713 voting centers open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. all over the country.
Outside the country, 304 polling stations will be set up for voters. Thirty-two polling stations are being set up in the United States while the rest are being dispersed in 130 countries.
Commenting on the previous elections, Mr. Daneshjou pointed out that the lowest turnout occurred in 1993 for the 6th presidential election. However, the turnout for the 10th presidential election is expected to be one of the highest, with over 46.7 million citizens eligible to vote.
Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli has declared that the ten hours allocated for voting could be extended depending on how busy the polling stations get. But by midnight on Friday, all the polling stations will be closed and the results will be announced within 24 hours.
The four presidential candidates approved by the Guardian Council are incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and three challengers, Mir-Hussein Mousavi Khameneh, Mahdi Karroubi, and Mohsen Rezaii.
Initially, the polls had indicated that President Ahmadinejad would be reelected for a second term. However, the latest polls, taken after the campaigning heated up and the live television debates, indicate a tight and unpredictable race.
In the live television debates between the candidates, the main topic of discussion was the economy. According to the Central Bank, the country’s inflation rate is 23.6%. The official unemployment rate was 10.3% four years ago, whereas now it is above 15%. The challengers questioned the president on the dismal economic statistics during a period of record high oil revenues. In all the debates he participated in, incumbent President Ahmadinejad defended the economic policies pursued during his tenure.
From all the demonstrations and fanfare on the streets of Tehran so far, supporters can be divided into two main camps, the reformist Mousavi and the “principlist” Ahmadinejad.
The polls also suggest that the competition between these two candidates will be so close that no one will be able to get more than 50% of the votes cast.
According to Article 117 of the Constitution, the president is elected by an absolute majority of votes polled (50% plus one). But if none of the candidates is able to win such a majority during the first round, a second round of voting will be held on the next Friday, i.e., June 19 in this case.
In the second round runoff, only the two candidates who receive the greatest number of votes in the first round will participate. If, however, any of the top two candidates from the first round withdraws from the election, the final choice will be between the two candidates who won the greatest number of votes from among the remaining candidates.
With seven candidates, the 2005 presidential election was the first race in the history of the Islamic Republic that went to a second round. Some 29.4 million voted, indicating a turnout of 62.84%.
The top two vote getters were Mr. Ahmadinejad and Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, with 5.71 million (19.5%) and 6.16 million (21%) votes respectively from the first round. Mr. Karroubi trailed close behind with 5 million votes or 17.3%.
In the second and final round, 27,958,931 voters went to the polls for a turnout of 59.76%. Mr. Ahmadinejad was elected president with more than 17 million votes (62%) against Mr. Rafsanjani’s 10.04 million votes (38%).
Although, officially the campaigning for Friday’s vote will stop this morning at eight a.m., it will be hard to turn off the election fever. Supporters of all sides are expected to be wearing the colors of their favorite candidates and carrying their posters all the way until Friday.
However, these rallies and gatherings have been observed only in the major cities. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s base support is in the rural areas, where it is hard to take a poll or get a general opinion. An estimated 15 million of the eligible voters reside in rural areas. Studies from previous elections have shown that election turnout in rural areas is higher than in urban areas.
All in all, nothing can be predicted for the 10th presidential election. However, we’ll see how it turned out early Sunday morning.