Tensions persist ahead of Iran election | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 13.06.2013
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Tensions persist ahead of Iran election

As the polls are about to open in Iran, the reformist presidential candidate Hassan Rohani is believed to have a good chance of making it to the run-off. It's less clear who will represent the conservatives.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei called on the people of his country to turn out to vote in the presidential election on Friday (14.06.2013). "Some Iranians may not like the Iranian system, but they will want to support the country," he said. "A high turnout will be a defeat for the enemies of Iran and will force them to reduce the international pressure."

In the past, Khamenei has described turning out to vote as a sign of support for the Iranian leadership.

It's impossible to say how high the turnout will be. The former reformist politician and political analyst Abbas Abdi thinks the chances that it will be high are rising every day.

"Turnout will not be less than 60 percent," he told Deutsche Welle. "And it could well be 70 to 75 percent."

The newspaper journalist Morteza Kazemian also thinks that 60 percent is likely, "but one must assume that the regime will correct the numbers upwards."

Ahmadinejad out of the game

Rafsanjani Source: IRNA

Rafsanjani endorsed Rohani after he was disqualified by the Guardians' Council

Observers had expected a show-down between the two conservative camps of Khamenei and current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Ahmadinejad's camp was left without a candidate after the disqualification of his ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

The man reformers pinned their hopes on was former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose candidacy was also rejected by the Guardians' Council, the state organ that manages the election. He then endorsed the moderate cleric Hassan Rohani, who also won the endorsement of Rafsanjani's successor as president Mohammad Khatami and that of the largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Can Rohani mobilize?

Whenever Rohani appears on the campaign trail, thousands are there to see him, many of them wearing lilac - the color that seems to have replaced green as the main opposition color.

Demonstrators at a rally hold up picture of Mussawi Picture: kaleme, provided by Pedram Habibi

There's considerable support for detained opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi

But the slogans remain those of the old green protest movement, demanding political openness and the release of activists and opposition members. And there are always especially loud cheers from Rohani's supporters when they hear the name of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leader of the green movement who has now been put under house arrest once more.

But it's not clear whether the Rohani camp will be able to get the often demoralized supporters of the reform movement to actually cast their votes. According to Kazemian, "The mobilization of the voters is perhaps coming too late, and the endorsement of Rohani by Khatami and Rafsanjani doesn't mean that the people will really turn out in masses to follow their call."

Fear of manipulation

Ghalibaf delivering a speech to the crowd EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

Ghalibaf is seen as the conservative candidate with the best chances

According to opinion polls, the conservative candidate with the best chances of entering the run-off on June 21 is the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. The current chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Khamenei adviser Ali Akbar Velayati are also thought to have a good chance.

"Only if the conservatives agree on a single candidate at the last minute can a run-off be avoided," says Abdi, who expects Rohani and Ghalibaf to make it through to the second round. "None of the candidates has enough of a profile to win an absolute majority in the first round."

Kazemian also sees Rohani vs. Ghalibaf as the likely outcome, as long as there's no cheating. He fears manipulation: "If Velayati or Jalili make it through to the run-off instead of Rohani, one can assume that he's Khamenei's favorite."

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