February 21, 2004

Iran Election Coverage

Pejmanesque has a roundup on the day's events in Iran. Here's part of Pejman's excerpt from coverage by The Guardian:

Iran's hardline government was harnessing the power of the state media to convince citizens to turn out and vote in national elections today in an effort to drown out calls by the reformist opposition for a boycott of the polls. A landslide win in elections four years ago gave reformists a majority in parliament. But all attempts at significant changes have been blocked by the non-elected clerical authorities led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - whose supporters consider him answerable only to God.

The reformers have urged a mass boycott after the conservative theocracy banned more than 2,300 candidates. The blacklist included reformist activists and politicians who have been demanding that the ruling clerics cede some of their power.

Voters are widely expected to restore control of the 290-seat chamber to conservative hardliners, but turnout is emerging as a decisive test of power between the two sides. A sharp drop in voter turnout could embarrass the Islamic establishment and taint the new parliament. For reformers, it also would be considered an encouraging sign of public support.

As political analyst Davoud Bavand told the Associated Press news agency: "The lower the numbers, the bigger the reformers' silent victory."

Ayatollah Khamenei, the country's top political and religious authority, voted about 30 minutes after polls opened at 8am local time (4.30am GMT) at tens of thousands of venues, including mosques, desert outposts for nomads and cemeteries for those making the traditional weekly visit to graves.

"You see how those who are against the Iranian nation and the revolution are trying so hard to prevent people from going to the polls," Khamenei told state television in Tehran. "I do not think these enthusiastic young people will be prevented from fulfilling their duty."

Campaigners used email, websites and a blitz of mobile phone text messages to urge voters to stay away. Conservatives responded with the full power of state media: non-stop coverage radio and television coverage with pro-vote comments from citizens and leaders and claims of a massive turnout.

It was difficult to independently gauge the initial voter response. Some Tehran ballot stations were virtually empty, but other areas around the country reported a steady flow of voters.

Much more at Pejmanesque.

Posted by dan at February 21, 2004 1:18 AM