03/13/2008, 00.00
IRAN
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No surprises expected in tomorrow’s vote in Iran

Reformers cannot win: 130 of their candidates have been barred from running in the country’s 200 ridings and the Supreme Leader has come out against them. But the ballot is not a test of Ahmadinejad’s popularity.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Results in tomorrow’s parliamentary elections in Iran are a foregone conclusion, not so much because of what the country’s 44 million voters want, but rather because those opposed to Ahmadinejad have no candidates to choose from.

Under existing electoral rules candidates must be approved by the Guardians Council who massively disqualified reformist candidates so that the latter are only present in 70 of the country’s 200 ridings. Four former ministers and some 30 reformist leaders have been denied the right to run for office.

Voters, especially young voters who are the majority, have become disillusioned with the whole process. A recent survey has shown that for most voters the elections are meaningless.

As if that was not enough, state media have repeatedly attacked the more prominent opposition leaders with the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei personally urging voters not to cast their ballots for those whom the enemy wants to see elected.

The not-so-transparent reference was to former President Mohammad Khatami, who has been called a “traitor” for meeting the German ambassador in Tehran to discuss the nuclear issue, and pro-reform spokesman Noureddin Pirmoazzen, guilty of talking to US media and of dismissing the elections.

Although the outcome of the election is a given, many analysts do not see the vote as a test of Ahmadinejad’s popularity and this for a variety of reasons. For one the president’s own party, the “Sweet Smell (or Scent) of Service” Party, unlike the 2006 municipal elections when it lost heavily, is not running alone this time but has joined the conservative United Front of Defenders of Principles.

The real test will come next year when voters will pick a new president; then Ahmadinejad will benefit from support in the provinces and from the poorest classes. But his main adversary will be inflation, which is currently running at 20 per cent.

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