Iran prepares for presidential elections

The president of Iran is elected for a four-year term, and nearly 50.


5 million Iranians are eligible to vote.


This year, six candidates approved by Iran’s ruling Guardian Council are running in the poll – and none has a reformist platform.


David Crisante reports.


The winner of this week’s presidential elections in Iran will face a series of international challenges including tougher sanctions and growing pressure from Western countries over the country’s nuclear program.


There is also the declining state of Iran’s internal affairs – rampant inflation, a worsening economy, and mounting unemployment among young adults.


Iran’s Guardian Council had approved eight presidential candidates, but two dropped out in the week leading up to the election.


One of the favourites, conservative Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, has promised to bring the economy back on track in two years should he be elected.


He maintains Iran cannot open a new chapter in history amid an economic downturn and what he calls slow diplomacy.


“We are need of a shift in the managerial approach of our society’s administration. One part of this change relates to foreign policy: diplomacy in this field did not bring about the acceptable outcomes which were in our plans.”


Mr Qalibaf is among four of the remaining candidates seen as close to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


The Ayatollah was the target of mass demonstrations in 2009 by reformist demonstrators who accused Iran’s conservative rulers of rigging the vote.


In the upcoming election, none of the election candidates is progressive, and those that led the reformist campaigns in 2009 are under house arrest.


The approved candidates all hold similar positions on some critical issues.


All have expressed support for Iran’s nuclear energy program, which Western countries claim is being used to develop nuclear weapons.


But in the last of a series of televised debates, moderate candidate Hassan Rohani criticised Iran’s hardline stance on the issue, which has resulted in several rounds of United Nations sanctions.


“We need to get away from extremism, this also relates to foreign policy. We should maintain the country’s interests and national security so as to provide conditions where we create opportunities for people to participate politically, economically and socially.”


His view is opposed by hardline candidate Saeed Jalili, who became Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator in 2007.


He’s vowed to continue the nation’s nuclear program and says Iran must not make any concession to the West on domestic affairs.


“They should understand that Iran will not only defend its nuclear rights, but any other rights. They should know that they can’t trifle with Iran when it comes to its rights. Iran is serious about its rights.”


Iranian Rasouf Alidoust migrated to Australia in 2007 and organised pro-democracy protests in Melbourne after the 2009 elections.


Mr Alidoust says voters have a bleak choice between what he calls ‘bad candidates and even worse ones’, because all those vying to be president are puppets of the Ayatollah.


Iranians in Australia are eligible to vote.


But Mr Alidoust says, for the first time in his life, he won’t vote because he believes these elections won’t be free or fair.


“All the people who are already involved in the politics, in the positions of the Islamic Revolution, they’re all sort of one family and we cannot even separate these members of the family from each other.”


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