14 June 2013, 15:21

Iran to extend voting hours in presidential election

The 10-hour voting period in Iran's presidential election on Friday is to be extended because of a "rush of voters", Interior Minister Mostafa Moammad Najar said.

"Because of the rush of voters, voting will be extended for sure," beyond the scheduled close of 6 pm (1330 GMT), he said, quoted by Fars news agency.

Iran is electing a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who after serving two consecutive terms is constitutionally barred from running.

The voting was taking, according to the hardline Guardians Council electoral watchdog, "without any problems."

The interior ministry has not given turnout figures but some polling stations in the capital were packed with voters, according to journalists.

State television also broadcast footage of long queues at polling stations across the country where more than 50 million people are eligible to vote.

Six candidates are competing, with moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani, who has the backing of Iran's marginalised reformists, considered a frontrunner.

Rouhani faces stiff competition from a slate of divided conservatives, all seen as close to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has the final say on key state issues.

Iran's presidential candidate, mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf votes surrounded by his family

Candidate for presidency, mayor of the capital Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf came to the polling station and voted surrounded by the members of his family.

"I want radical changes in the country in the field of progress and justice. I support significant changes in the country, regardless of the outcome of the vote," Ghalibaf said.

© Photo: AFP

By this minute, three other candidates - Hassan Rouhani, Ali Akbar Velayati and Mohammad Gharazi - also implemented their right to vote. Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei voted shortly after the polling stations were opened.

© Photo: AFP

About 60 thousand polling stations opened today at 08:00 local time /07:30 Moscow time / in the whole territory of Iran. Voting will last until 18:00 local time /17:30 MSK/. 50.5 million Iranians entitled to vote can take part in it.

The Iranians are to choose from six candidates - four conservatives and two centrists.

Presidential elections are held in Iran every four years. According to the Constitution, the incumbent President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not able to run for the third term.

Iran begins voting to elect new president

Iran began voting on Friday to elect the successor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the state televsion announced.

The vote pitches a divided conservative camp against a moderate candidate who enjoys the backing of the reformists.

Some 50.5 million people are eligible to vote for a successor to Ahmadinejad, who is constitutionally barred to run for a third term.

Iran has been isolated internationally under his presidency over its controversial nuclear drive.

The polls will remain open for the next 10 hours, though voting may be extended until midnight, if the interior ministry decides that it is necessary.


Presidential elections to be held in Iran on Friday

Vladimir Sazhin

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the three (Turkey, Israel) in the Middle East where democratic norms exist. (It’s a different story how they are being implemented in each country). The symbiosis of ruling bodies, republican institutions and Islamic bodies creates specific possibilities for the development of representative democracy in Iran. The citizens of Iran enjoy universal suffrage from the age of 16 years.

The President of Iran is the head of the government. He forms the government and guides it. According to the constitution of Iran, the President is the highest popularly elected official, although the President answers to the Supreme Spiritual Leader who functions as the country’s head of state.

Iran has held 10 presidential elections since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and elected 6 presidents. The 11th presidential elections will be held on June 14 to elect the 7th President.

The first President was a graduate from Teheran University Abolhasan Banisadr (1980-1981), who was dismissed by Ayatollah Khomeini. He immigrated to France. The second President was Mohammad Ali Rajai (1981), who was assassinated by terrorists. Then Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (1981-1989), Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), Ayatollah Mohammed Khatami (1997—2005) and engineer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were elected.

Ahead of the 2013 Presidential election, the country’s political and economic situation is quite complicated. Consequently, the new President and his team will have to face difficult problems.

Iranian and foreign political scientists single out four groups of major tasks.

Economic: To overcome the pre-crisis situation and revive the stagnated economy, including foreign economic ties.

Internal political problems: Iranian society has been divided during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, especially after the 2009 elections that were followed by an outbreak of political discontent. This process has affected all political trends and parties.

Foreign policy problems : Addressing all presidential candidates, Ayatollah Khamenei emphasized that the President must not take independent foreign policy decisions. The tasks before the country are breaking the isolation, establishing normal relations with Europe and the Arab states and creating conditions for a dialogue with the US.

Undoubtedly, according to him, the President cannot do everything, but the policy based on unbiased apprehension of the situation and the adherence to common and general directions of Ayatollah Khamenei by the President should produce positive results.

Nuclear problem : President Ahmadinejad has stalemated a solution to the nuclear problem solution of which is the quintessential of all Iranian problems. Practically, everything, including the economic situation and the country’s internal and foreign policy situation depend on its resolution, in short, the future of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Much depends on the political orientation of the new President, but not the all. The political space in Iran is multifaceted. Analytics single out two groups, conservatives and reformers.

The Conservative wing is presented by three trends. The first is radical conservatives or followers of Ahmadinejad’s course.

The traditionalists are supported by the majority of clergy, small businesses and a significant part of traditional political elite. They pursue a pragmatic policy in international relations and lend support for promoting relations with all countries.

The third trend in the conservative camp can be described as conservatives supporting reforms. Among the followers of this trend are candidates for presidency Rezi and Galibaf. Their main targets are the strengthening of the Islamic regime, the perfection of the Iranian economic model and the strengthening of Islamic principles in cultural and public life in the country. They are stick to the development of constructive relations with all countries, especially the Western countries.

Who are the candidates for presidency?

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf

52 years, conservative, Teheran Mayor, former commander of police and the Air Force of the AGIR.

In his election manifest, the mayor of Teheran calls on making radical changes in the country’s ruling system. Qalibaf is more inclined to search for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem than Ahmadinejad. Many observers forecast that Qalibaf’s win will lead to reforms in society.

Mohsen Rezee

59 years, D.Sc. (economics), the hero of the Iran-Iraq war, the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, former Commander-in-Chief of AGIR (the youngest of all former and current commanders).

Rezee has drawn up his own election strategy on the need for removing misbalance between strong internal and foreign policy and weak economic policy. He seriously believes in prospects for Iranian-American negotiations. Concerning internal reforms, the candidate is planning to replace compulsory military service with professional army.

Hasan Rukhani

65 years, He is religious activist, reformer and the director of the Centre for Strategic Research at the Expediency Discernment Council. The representative of the Spiritual Leader in the Supreme National Security Council, a member of the Council of Experts, earlier, he was the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, the President’s national security adviser and the deputy speaker of the parliament.

Rukhani supports the resumption of talks on Iran’s nuclear issue and believes that the country can rely on the European leaders. He intends to press for lifting international sanctions on Iran. Concerning foreign policy, the candidate calls on for constructive cooperation with all countries as a whole.

Saeed Jalili

48 years, independent candidate. Despite his youthfulness, he fought in the Iran-Iraq war. He was injured and became handicapped.

His career has been linked to the highest state structures. He worked at the Supreme Leader’s office. In the Foreign Ministry he rose to Deputy Foreign Minister, while in the National Security Council - up its Secretary. Combining this capacity with the post of the head of the Iranian delegation at the nuclear talks with the six world powers, he has been pursuing the Supreme Leader’s uncompromising tough policy.

Saeed Jalili said that in case of his win, he would remain loyal to the ideal of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Any candidate, who will be elected as next president, should follow the path of the Islamic Revolution and should use all resources to achieve its goals.

Ali Akbar Velayati

68 years, pediatrician, studied at the University of John Hopkins in the US. At present, he is an adviser to the Spiritual Leader on international issues, member of the Expediency Discernment Council. He was former Iranian Foreign Minister.

In his election manifest, he emphasizes that he was a portage of Ayatollah Khomeini and the current leader Ayatollah Khamenei. He compares negotiations on the nuclear programme with peace talks after the end of the war with Iraq in 1988 where he headed the Iranian delegation, and insists that the current problem is not more complicated than the previous one, and can be resolved.

Mohammad Garza

72 years, He is little-known among the candidates. At present, he does not serve in the government. Earlier, he was the Petroleum Minister and the Communications Minister. He insists on forming a government of professionals regardless of the ministers’ political orientation and under whose guidance they worked before. During the election campaign he said: “I have neither money nor election staff, but I have a programme to cut inflation rate.” He has no chance to win the election.

The population of Iran is almost 80 million and the number of eligible voters is over 50 million. How will they vote? Will the election’s outcome depend on their vote?

However, hopefully, all possible candidates except Jalili are capable of finding their own interpretation (without confrontation with Ayatollah Khamenei) to Iran’s foreign policy, especially to nuclear policy. This should inspire hope.

Voice of Russia, AFP, TASS


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