Polls open in Iran

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

Up to 47 million people aged over 15 years are eligible to vote, and candidates have made efforts to woo younger voters, with half of Iran’s population.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni was among the first to cast their vote, in one of 42,000 polling stations set up in schools, mosques and prayer halls across the Islamic republic.

He urged Iranians to participate in the vote, describing it as a “pious act” in support of the Islamic republic.

Mr Rafsanjani, 70, has topped most opinion polls in the lead-up to the election, which is expected to be the closest-fought ballot since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

To win, he needs to gain more than 50 percent of the vote, otherwise will face a run-off with the second-placed candidate, which would likely take place on June 24.

There are seven candidates in the running, with security tight amid fears of bomb attacks, after up to 10 people were killed in attacks a week ago.

Earlier, US President George W Bush strongly criticised Iran’s electoral process, saying it ignores the demands of democracy.

“Iran is ruled by men who suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world,” President Bush said in a statement.

“Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.”

Mr Bush, who in 2002 labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil”, strongly criticised the tough vetting process.

The hardline Guardian Council barred over 1,000 candidates, including all of the women hopefuls, allowing only eight candidates to stand.

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi denounced the US leader’s remarks as “baseless”.

“In Iran we have candidates from different tendencies while in America there are two candidates, from Republicans or Democrats,” Mr Asefi said.

Opinion polls indicate Mr Rafsanjani, who wants improved ties with the West, will not win the 50 percent support he needs to avoid a run-off vote.

Regardless of the vote, most analysts predict that real political power in Iran will remain with conservative, anti-West religious authorities.

Candidates have promised to create more jobs and allow more social freedoms.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has expressed concern there is an “organised movement” attempting to disrupt the country’s keenly-fought presidential election.

President Khatami, who is barred from standing for a third four-year term, didn’t specify who was behind the attempts to interfere with Friday’s vote.

But his comments appear to refer to allegations of smear campaigns and physical harassment reported by candidates across the board.

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