June 14, 2013


Late Heavy Turnout Reported in Iran's Presidential Election (THOMAS ERDBRINK, 6/14/13, NY Times)

The Iranian authorities reported heavy turnout in presidential voting on Friday, extending polling hours three times to accommodate what appeared to be a late surge of interest. Anecdotal evidence suggested that Tehran's mayor and a moderate cleric were garnering the strongest support, outdistancing their four conservative rivals.

In interviews and nonscientific surveys during the campaign, Iranians consistently said they were looking for someone to solve the country's deepening economic problems, expand individual rights and normalize relations with the rest of the world. [...]

The interviews with voters in Tehran and other cities suggested that the emerging front-runners were Mayor Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf of Tehran and a moderate cleric, Hassan Rowhani, who appeared to attract a late burst of support from Iran's marginalized reformists who had considered boycotting the election. [...]

Mr. Rowhani has been promoting more freedom and rights for women, and is supported by the moderate former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 78, who was disqualified by the council, with his age given as the official reason.

The nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, considered the most conservative of the other candidates, did not appear to be attracting much support, which if confirmed would be a disappointment to the hard-liners in the government who had thrown their weight behind him.

A rare Iran presidential poll shows Tehran mayor Ghalibaf as runaway favorite (Max Fisher, June 10, 2013, Washington Post)

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf holds a strong lead in the eight-way Iranian presidential race, according to survey data from a company that claims to run the only tracking poll in the election. The U.S.-based Information and Public Opinion Solutions says it bases its data on daily phone interviews with a sample size of just over 1,000 people.

The poll has 39 percent of decided voters saying they support Ghalibaf, a remarkable lead over all the other candidates. However, the poll also reports that 57 percent of voters are undecided, meaning that presently undecided voters could easily erase his lead.

Tehran mayor Ghalibaf seen as a strong contender in Iranian presidential race (Jason Rezaian, Published: June 5, 2013, Washington Post)

If polls are any guide -- and in Iran, they are far from reliable -- Ghalibaf might have reason to exude confidence. Less than two weeks before Iranians vote, several online surveys conducted by Iranian news Web sites place the technocrat as a top contender in the field of eight conservative candidates vying to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This week, 150 members out of 290 in Iran's parliament signed a letter officially endorsing him.

Ghalibaf is viewed warily by some of Iran's political conservatives and clerical rulers, who view him as being more focused on pragmatism than revolutionary ideals. [...]

As the only candidate with real executive experience and demonstrable accountability to the public, Ghalibaf, 51, is making a strong case that he has what it takes to be the Islamic Republic's chief executive. Working in his favor are a solid military background and a highly praised record as mayor of Iran's sprawling capital of more than 12 million people.

By the time Ghalibaf was 19, he was a commander on the front lines of Iran's war with Iraq. He rose to the rank of major general before ultimately being named the commander of Iran's air force, a division of the Revolutionary Guard. In 1999, Ghalibaf was named head of Iran's police forces, a position he held until he succeeded Ahmadinejad as Tehran mayor in 2005.

In recent years, Ghalibaf has also distinguished himself from other Iranian politicians by mostly avoiding rivalries and instead focusing on addressing the myriad problems of the dilapidated city he inherited.

Under Ghalibaf, the perennially traffic-choked and polluted capital's landscape was transformed through massive tree planting and green-space campaigns. Bridges were built and city rail lines were extended. Many Tehran residents laud him as a rare Iranian official capable of getting results, and he has won international praise for urban management and been shortlisted for several international mayoral awards.

Posted by at June 14, 2013 6:35 PM

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