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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-10-2009, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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Iran campaign enters final day

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
21:39 Mecca time, 18:39 GMT
News Middle East,
Al Jazeera

Iran campaign enters final day

Mousavi has emerged as the main
challenger to Ahmadinejad [AFP]

The four candidates in Iran's presidential election are making last-ditch attempts to woo voters on the final day of campaigning.

Tens of thousands of people turned out to hear Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president, speak in Tehran's Freedom Square on Wednesday.

Many of them carried Iranian flags and chanted slogans against the rival candidates.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformist and former prime minister, packed into nearby Freedom Square later on Wednesday for a rally.

Security was tight at the demonstration with riot police surrounding the square and a police helicopter flying overhead.

Mousavi did not attend that rally, but made a final campaign foray into Ahmadinejad's provincial strongholds.

Thousands greeted him at a university in Loristan, southwest of Tehran, and crowds gathered to hug him at another town in that province.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of the two men have turned out for campaign events in the capital, Tehran, in recent days as the race has become increasingly bitter.

During a series of televised debates, Ahmadinejad accused the reformist candidates and their allies of lies and corruption.

In his address on Wednesday, the president defended his remarks.

"We do not insult and slander we have logic, God willing our logic will beat all the insults, slanders and immoralities," he said.

'Unpredictable' election

Mahdi Karroubi, a reformist and former parliamentary speaker, and Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, are also standing in Friday's election.

"This is the most unpredictable and most exciting presidential election in Iran in years because the main contenders in this race have gathered much support among Iranians," Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi, reporting from Tehran, said.

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"It is clearly visible that Mousavi has a little edge over Ahmadinejad in the capital city, but in other provinces it is a totally different story."

Iran's reformists are hoping that a high turnout on Friday will help them oust the conservative Ahmadinejad, who they accuse of increasing the country's international isolation and compounding its economic difficulties.

Mousavi's campaign appears to have motivated the youth in a country where one-third of the electorate is under 30-years-old and was therefore not born at the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

"I believe it is a new beginning and I want to take part in it," Parastou Pazhoutan, a 26-year-old Mousavi supporter, said.

"A month ago, I would have said Ahmadinejad was a sure bet,'' Sharif Emam Jomeh, a political analyst, said.

"There was apathy especially with the youth. But now, until 3am, they are out in numbers and they care ... Below the surface, something was boiling."

Part of the appeal of Mousavi has been his wife, who has joined him on the campaign and made vocal calls for improved women's rights.

"We seek freedom of expression, press and thought that are the eternal wishes of Iranian people," she told a rally in Tehran on Tuesday.

Ahmadinejad support

But Ahmadinejad still has strong support of the religious establishment and many of the poor, both inside and outside of the capital.

"Our supporters are many and we don't have to gather in the streets like this," Hossein Ghorbani, a taxi driver in Tehran, said.

The Iranian election

Sixty-five per cent of Iran's population, or about 46 million people, are eligible to vote

Turnout in the last election was around sixty per cent

Just over 13 per cent, or six million of those eligible to vote, will be first time voters

Three-quarters of the population are under the age of 30 and the voting age is set at 18

"I support Ahmadinejad because he is not stealing and is with the people. He cares about us."

Thousands of people have taken part in daily rallies in support of the incumbent in the northeastern city of Mashad, Iran's second largest city.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president and a powerful figure in Iran's clerical leadership, on Tuesday urged the country's supreme leader to take action against Ahmadinejad over his remarks about the reformists.

He wrote to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that millions of Iranians had witnessed "mis-statements and fabrications" in a televised election debate last week, when Ahmadinejad accused Rafsanjani of corruption.

"I am expecting you to resolve this position in order to extinguish the fire, whose smoke can be seen in the atmosphere, and to foil dangerous plots," he said in the letter published by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Fourteen high-ranking clerics from the city of Qom, the supreme leader's base, echoed Rafsanjani's remarks, expressing "deep concern and
regret" that Iran's image had been harmed in the debate.

"Accusing those who were not present at that debate and could not defend themselves is against our religion," they said in a statement.

It was also reported on Tuesday that a pro-Mousavi newspaper had been closed down by the authorities.

"Despite the implementation of a decree issued on April 11 by ... Tehran's penal court that authorised the publication of Yas No, it was banned today by Tehran's prosecutor," Saleh Nikbakht, the newspaper's lawyer, was quoted as saying.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-10-2009, 03:57 PM
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What does Gallup say about this election? Rasmussen? I hear they're biased.

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-10-2009, 03:58 PM
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Iran's Potemkin Election

Only candidates vetted by the ruling clerics have been allowed to stand.

After suffering three decades of international isolation and unremitting Islamic revolution, millions of pro-democracy voters in Iran were supposed to have the opportunity in this Friday's presidential election to express their disenchantment with religious dictatorship. It is not to be. The guardians of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolution will remain deeply entrenched.

The leading candidate is the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was a founding member of the Revolutionary Guards and got to know Khomeini during the American embassy siege (he was not directly involved in the hostage-taking itself). Meanwhile, the country's all-powerful supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was installed directly at the behest of Khomeini to be his successor shortly before the latter's death in June 1989.

Khomeini's heirs have maintained their iron grip of power, which has enabled them to uphold his guiding principles as well as export the Iranian revolution to places such as Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq. They are also pressing ahead with the development of a controversial nuclear program.

To be sure, decades of incessant revolutionary activity has taken its toll on the Iranian people, the vast majority of whom were born after 1979. Apart from having to live under a regime where political opposition is brutally oppressed, adulterers are regularly stoned to death, and the limbs of petty criminals amputated in public, the vast majority of ordinary Iranians do not desire to live in a country that is regarded as an international pariah and is constantly subjected to the privations of economic sanctions.

It was for this reason that expectations for the presidential election were running high both inside Iran and throughout the wider world. Many hoped it would be a watershed moment when Iran's people could force a dramatic change of direction in the way the country is governed. Trying to encourage the moderates to gain the upper hand in Tehran has, after all, been the holy grail of Western policy makers for decades.

The administration of George W. Bush had hopes of helping Iran's Internet generation (Iran is one of the world's leading blogging nations) to have its voice heard above the regime's repressive strictures, a policy that's continuing under President Barack Obama. It hasn't worked.

Some 475 candidates put their names forward to become the country's seventh post-revolutionary president. They included Mohammed Khatami, the moderate politician who served for two terms as Iran's president from 1997.

However, it was Mr. Khatami's surprise victory then that prompted the hard-liners around Supreme Leader Khamenei to implement measures that would prevent moderates from gaining power again. Thus, for the past two elections to the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) the Revolutionary Guards -- who are controlled directly by Mr. Khamanei -- have carefully vetted all the candidates to ensure only those with the right revolutionary credentials are allowed to stand.

Now the regime, in the form of the Guardian Council, which is charged with upholding the tenets of Khomeini's revolution, has employed the same tactic ahead of the presidential election: Of the original 475 applicants only four candidates have survived the cull. All of them have revolutionary credentials beyond reproach.

There is of course the 52-year-old Mr. Ahmadinejad. He is widely expected to win re-election.

Mohsen Rezaie, 55, is a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards. He is subject to an international arrest warrant issued by the Argentine goverment in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires which killed 85 people and injured 151.

Mir Hossein Musavi, 67, is a conservative hard-liner who served as Iran's prime minister under the Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s and frequently clashed with Khamenei, then the president of Iran, over various issues including improved relations with the U.S.

Finally there is Mahdi Kharroubi, 72, a former speaker of parliament. He enjoys the distinction of having been a close confidant of both Khomeini and Mr. Khamenei.

As a result of the Guardian Council's intervention, Iran's voters are left with a Potemkin election in which the survival of the guardians of Khomeini's Islamic revolution is guaranteed. And just in case there was any possibility that the Internet generation might be tempted to mobilize disenchanted voters, the authorities have taken the precaution of closing the Facebook Web site for the duration of the campaign.

All of this makes for an unpleasant situation in the White House, which is still clinging to the hope that it can establish a constructive dialogue with Tehran. Since coming to office, Mr. Obama has gone out of his way to extend the hand of friendship to Iran, pledging that he is prepared to open direct negotiations with Iran if Tehran would be prepared, as he said in his inaugural speech, to "unclench its fist."

But to date Mr Obama has received precious little in return from Iran for this extravagant gesture. When not celebrating the launch of ballistic missiles capable of hitting Israel, Mr. Ahmadinejad has remained defiant about Iran's right to develop its illicit nuclear program, repeatedly rejecting proposals to freeze its activities in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

No matter who wins this "election," Mr. Obama should expect more of the same.

Iran's Potemkin Election -

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-11-2009, 01:11 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, it's just a charade. Different marionettes, same puppeteers.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 06-11-2009, 09:02 AM Thread Starter
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Iran's raucous election campaign goes quiet

Iran's raucous election campaign goes quiet
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer Nasser Karimi, Associated Press Writer 22 mins ago

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's raucous election campaign fell silent a day before the vote as rallies were barred Thursday to give the public time to reflect on whether they want to keep hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power or replace him with a reformist more open to closer ties with the West.

The campaign reached a crescendo in the past few days with dueling rallies by supporters of Ahmadinejad and his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, that drew tens of thousands into the streets of Tehran. Fervent, youthful supporters of Mousavi accused the president of undermining Iran's international standing with his confrontational style and of devastating the economy.

The stakes are extremely high for Iran — the new leader must decide how to respond to President Barack Obama's offer for dialogue after a nearly 30-year diplomatic chill. The Obama administration is cautiously watching the vote for signs the Islamic Republic may be willing to engage, but U.S. officials have meager expectations for change.

Tehran residents went about removing posters and banners from buildings and cars as campaigning officially ended early Thursday. State media and the candidate's Web sites encouraged people to vote on Friday.

"I ask people to go to polling stations in early hours of voting, otherwise in the latter hours stations will be crowded," said the head of election headquarters, Kamran Daneshjou, according to the state news agency, IRNA. About 40,000 polling stations are set to open at 8 a.m. Friday.

On Thursday, the Interior Ministry issued a statement asking people to report any voting violations to their local governors' offices. Daneshjou also said violations should be reported and that the headquarters will allow about 110,000 representatives of the candidates to be present in the stations nationwide.

Mousavi's official Web site also urged people to inform his campaign office of any irregular voting. The Web site provided a list of possible violations, including the existence of extra ballots, campaign materials at polling stations and organized harassment.

"We wish you victory by electing Mir Hossein Mousavi and saving the country from the current situation," the Web site said.

The country's Basij paramilitary corps also encouraged people to vote to annoy the enemies of Islam — an apparent reference to the United States. The Basij, which is often involved in crackdowns on dissidents, was key in helping Ahmadinejad win in 2005.

"The people of Iran will choose someone who will resist bullying of those who are arrogant and defend Iran's interest in the world," the corps said in a statement, according to IRNA.

In the final hours of the fierce contest, Mousavi got a sharp warning from the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard that authorities would crush any attempt at a popular "revolution" inspired by the huge rallies and street parties calling for more freedoms.

The threat Wednesday reflected the increasingly tense atmosphere surrounding the up-for-grabs election. It also marked a sharp escalation by the ruling clerics against Mousavi's youth-driven campaign and its hopes of an underdog victory.

The Revolutionary Guard is one of the pillars of the Islamic establishment and controls large military forces as well as a nationwide network of militia volunteers.

The message from the Guards' political chief, Yadollah Javani, appeared aimed at rattling Mousavi's backers just before the polls open Friday and to warn that it would not tolerate the formation of a post-election political force under the banner of Mousavi's "green movement" — the signature color of his campaign.

In a statement on the Guards' Web site, Javani drew parallels between Mousavi's campaign and the "velvet revolution" that led to the 1989 ouster of the communist government in then-Czechoslovakia, saying "some extremist (reformist) groups, have designed a colorful revolution ... using a specific color for the first time in an election."

Javani called it a "sign of kicking off a velvet revolution project in the presidential elections," and vowed any "attempt for velvet revolution will be nipped in the bud." It also accused the reformists of planning to claim vote rigging and provoke street violence if Mousavi loses.

The all-night street rallies and the joyful campaign of Mousavi's supporters have rekindled the passions and hopes of reformists after Ahmadinejad's victory four years ago. Their calls are similar to the days of reformist President Mohammad Khatami — more social freedoms, media openness and outreach to the West.

The election outcome will have little direct impact on Iran's key policies — including its nuclear program or possible talks with Washington — which are directly dictated by the ruling Islamic clerics. Still, the president has influence over some domestic affairs, such as the economy, and serves as Iran's highest-ranking envoy on the international stage.

Ahmadinejad is believed to have wide support in the Revolutionary Guard and among Iran's ruling clerics, though neither have given public endorsements in a presidential race that has seen the sudden and unexpected rise of Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s.

Mousavi has accused Ahmadinejad of attempting to whitewash the scope of Iran's problems, which include double-digit inflation and chronic unemployment and criticized the hard-line president for blackening Iran's international reputation by questioning the Holocaust and calling for Israel's destruction.

Two other candidates are in the race: former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei and former parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi. In the increasingly tight race, their level of support could play a swing role — with Rezaei expected to draw conservative voters and Karroubi pulling in moderates.
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