Friday, June 17, 2005

Close Vote Expected As Iranians Go To The Polls

The Iranian elections are underway. This has been a hotly contested election, pitting many different factions against one another.
To most westerners it may seem like a typical election: the conservatives vs. liberals, traditional value vs. new values, and younger voters vs. older voters. In some ways it is a typical election but in many more, it's not. The apparent front-runner is veteran Iranian politician Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He's held the job before and he's viewed a conservative with realistic views. He's mobilized his political machine and people have been handing out bumper stickers and other standard election paraphernalia. He sees a future with the United States but he's not expected to win dramatically and many watchers expect to see him in a run off. The real ruling authority in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants high voter turnout to keep accusations of undemocratic behavior at bay. This has been an issue because over 1000 people requested to run for president, now only 7 are actually in the race and all have to be approved by the Ayatollah to get in the race. The outgoing president, Mohammed Reza Khatami, known as a reformist president tried many reforms to make Iran a more free society but the ruling theocrats denied him.
The other major candidates in this election include two other and possibly a third. The first is education minister Mostafa Moin. He's a reformist in the same thread as Khatami and served in his administration. Next would be Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a conservative former police chief. He's gotten some strong backing in recent weeks. A third possible candidate would be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's a conservative and the mayor of Tehran. Voting age is young in Iran at 14 and the youth vote is expected to play a crucial role. Some are calling for a boycott of the vote because a high voter turn out would lend legitimacy to the government. Many young people in Iran are anxious for a more open society and want more involvement with the U.S., a move that is unlikely to happen until the nuclear crisis is resolved and well behind both nations. To the United States, this election won't mean much until the nuclear issue is resolved and that probably won't change much until the theocracy shifts. As part of the "Axis of Evil", Iran has been on the U.S. short list for some time now. People are still wary because of the hostage crisis back during the Carter administration. If ties are to be developed between the two nations once again, the powers that be on both sides must make some major changes.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani