Iranians took to the streets and main squares of Tehran in an unprecedanted show of support for their candidates before presidential elections tomorrow.
Thousands of people stayed out all afternoon yesterday and into the evening, in a late display of engagement in a race that started with little enthusiasm. Candidates are not allowed by law to campaign the day before a vote, though spontaneous gatherings could take place later today.
After the last presidential election in 2009, activists accused authorities of using ballot fraud to deny a reformist victory. Having witnessed the subsequent crackdown on protesters, many Iranians polled in recent weeks said they had no interest in voting this time. About 50.4 million people are eligible to cast ballots, including 1.6 million first-time voters, the Interior Ministry says.
Several thousand supporters of Hassan Rohani, the candidate most in favour of social and political reforms, gathered in Haft-Tir square. Rally organizers distributed purple bracelets and posters of Rohani bearing slogans of the same color. Some people wore purple scarves and coats.
Rohani’s campaign picked up this week after he was endorsed by former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, whom Iranians refer to as “the father of reforms.” Rohani has vowed to ease economic sanctions on his nation by seeking a more constructive dialogue with the West.
“Fellow citizens under sanctions, support us, support us!” chanted some of Rohani’s backers. “The epic of Khatami must be repeated,” others called out, referring to Rohani as “the sheikh of reforms.”
Rohani is one six candidates and the only cleric. Other main contenders are the chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, for whom support was also visible last night in Tehran.
As many as 3,000 of Qalibaf supporters gathered in Palestine Square, making their way up to the Vanak roundabout. Posters, including head-to-toe pictures of the mayor, cover the entire sides of some buildings in the capital.
Qalibaf has cited his work in the 12-million-people city as proof of his managerial skills and efficiency. He’s seen as a front runner in a local survey by the Mehr Center for Opinion Polling.
The police force was conspicuous during the rallies, though there was no sign of tensions or conflict between security forces and voters.
About 51 percent of Iranians are undecided or said they will not vote at all, Akbar Torkan, the deputy head of Rohani’s campaign headquarters said two days ago, citing local polls.
According to two local polls cited by state-run Mehr and Fars news agencies, none of the six candidates will win a majority of votes this week. Qalibaf will place first with 17.8 percent while Rohani will come in second with 14.6 percent, according to the Mehr Center for Opinion Polling’s survey. Jalili will trail with 9.8 percent, it showed. Qalibaf and Jalili will lead votes and Rohani will come in third, according to another survey Fars cited two days ago.
If no candidate gets a majority in the first round, the top two will compete in a June 21 runoff.
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