Iran’s election campaign ends ahead of Friday’s presidential election

Iran’s election campaign ends ahead of Friday’s presidential election
Iran’s election campaign ends ahead of Friday’s presidential election

Iran’s ultraconservative presidential candidate Saeed Jalili and reformist Massoud Pezeshkian held their final campaign rallies in Tehran before Friday’s vote, the former in a prayer hall and his rival in a stadium.

Thousands of Mr Jalili’s supporters rallied at the Mosalla mosque in the centre of the capital on Wednesday, waving hundreds of Iranian flags and chanting “Jalili, Jalili” or “All Iran says Jalili”.

The walls bore portraits of the late ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May, with the slogan “A world of opportunities, Iran moves forward.”

Men on one side and women on the other applauded wildly as Mr. Jalili entered.

“Today is a historic moment,” Mr Jalili said, urging voters to go to the polls.

Only 40% of Iran’s 61 million voters cast ballots in the first round on June 28, the lowest turnout for a presidential election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“Today, with the help of young people, we will move the country forward,” he promised.

– “Strengthening the power” –

For Maryam Naroui, 40, Mr Jalili represents “the best option for the security of the country”.

“He is honest and will follow Mr. Raisi’s path,” said Ms. Heiydarian, a 39-year-old housewife wearing a chador.

A former nuclear negotiator (2007-2013) known for his inflexible positions towards Western powers, Mr. Jalili had firmly opposed any agreement imposing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

For him, the international agreement on Iranian nuclear power, signed in 2015 before collapsing in 2018 after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States under Donald Trump, had violated all of Iran’s “red lines” by authorizing inspections of nuclear sites.

“We will strengthen the country’s power and progress,” Jalili promised if elected, before a crowd of supporters castigating the moderate former president Hassan Rouhani (2013-2021) who signed the historic nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.

Mr. Rouhani, like former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, is supporting Massoud Pezeshkian in this race for the presidency. While affirming his loyalty to the Islamic Republic, the reformist candidate advocates openness to the West.

In a stadium in central Tehran, an enthusiastic crowd waved green flags, adorned with the slogan “For Iran” by this deputy from Tabriz (northwest).

“Long live Khatami, long live Pezeshkian!” chanted the motley crowd, where women in colorful scarves mingled with others draped in traditional black chadors.

– “Getting out of isolation” –

“We can run our country in unity and cohesion,” Pezeshkian told his cheering supporters.

During his campaign, he called for “constructive relations” with the United States and European capitals “to bring Iran out of its isolation.”

He also reiterated his calls for an easing of internet restrictions and pledged to “fully oppose” morality police patrols enforcing the veil requirement for women.

Mr. Pezeshkian had become known in particular for his criticism of the government during the vast protest movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

The young woman died in custody after being arrested by the morality police, who accused her of violating the strict dress code for women.

Since the protests, more and more women have been going out bareheaded into the streets.

In recent months, however, the police have stepped up controls on those who break the rules.

Yasaman Saeedinia, a 25-year-old student, said she had never voted in her life and was unsure whether she should vote. “But after watching the recent debates, I prefer Pezeshkian,” she said.

“I think that if Pezeshkian wins (…), people will have hope for the future,” said Sadegh Azari, a 45-year-old insurance company employee.

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