Iranians go to polls with little hopes for change

Iranians go to polls with little hopes for change

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Iranians go to polls with little hopes for change

Iranian top nuclear negotiator and presidential candidate Saeed Jalili (L) embraces Rahim Ahmadi Roshan, the father of a slain Iranian scientist. AP photo

With a low expectation of change, Iranians go to polls today to vote for the country’s new president after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a second round of voting is expected.

A big change is not expected in Iran as the profiles of the six racing candidates, all loyal to the Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, do not reflect a political diversity following the barring of the former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad’s ally Esfandiar Rahim Meshai from running in the elections.

“The election in Iran finished on May 20 when Meshai and Rafsanjani were barred from the election race. Rafsanjani was a candidate who could resist and criticize the supreme leader,” Mehmet Şahin, an academic in Gazi University and consultant for the Middle East Strategical Research Center (ORSAM) told the Hürriyet Daily News in a phone interview.

The short amount of time left to candidates for campaigning and Khamanei’s power and influence on other institutions, including the president, are seen as other defects of the elections.

Voters have to choose between a slew of conservatives and Hasan Rowhani, a moderate, who is backed by reformists. According to an opinion poll published by Mehr news agency, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf is leading the race with 17.8 percent support from 10,000 voters surveyed, ahead of Rowhani, with 14.6 percent. Rowhani has received endorsements from two ex-presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Rafsanjani, after the withdrawal from the race of the sole reformist, Mohammad Reza Aref. Saeed Jalili, a prominent conservative who is currently Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, followed with 9.8 percent.

Reformist mobilization behind Rowhani

Conservative Ali Akbar Velayati, Mohsen Rezaee and moderate Mohammed Gharazi are the other three candidates whose chances are seen as lower. The Iranian people will also vote for the city and village councils.

The new president is mostly expected to improve the economy which has been in a bad condition for more than a year and this is mainly attached to lifting sanctions applied by the West against Iran due to the country’s nuclear enrichment policies.

“None of the initial eight candidates could talk of dealing with the West [in order to lift sanctions applied against Iran]. Some of them talked of the reorganization of politics and a better management of economy but the commitments are empty. A big change can only come when a decision comes from the top,” Ali Alizadeh, an Iranian political analyst currently based in London, told the Daily News referring to the supreme leader who has final say on all state matters.

“Despite all the difficulties and limits, it seems like there is kind of snowballing effect, a mobilization behind Mr. Rowhani. If he gets a majority of the votes and the state doesn’t cheat the election, if Rowhani becomes president with a movement behind him, maybe he can bring limited changes or might affect nuclear negotiations on a limited level,” Alizadeh stressed, adding that this would be a miracle.

Saeed Shariati, a member of the Islamist Iranian Participation Front, a political party in Iran, also said Rowhani’s election would bring little change. “Mr. Rowhani is not a reformist. He is a close person to the Supreme Leader. Mr. Khamanei helps and supports the president. I hope Mr. Rowhani will make some change by getting Khamanei’s support and those changes will be a minimum of what reformists demand in the country.”

Şahin echoed Shariati’s claim. “The new president will be stuck between the regime and the people’s demands. Iranians demand an improvement in the economy and a country at peace with the region and the world as the regime seeks its continuity.” Şahin believes that if Rowhani is able to stand against Khamanei, something might change but if not all would end up the same. “The winner of the election will be the regime; the loser will be the Iranian people and women.”

Google detects Iran phishing attacks

MOUNTAIN VIEW – The Associated Press

Google said June 12 it has discovered and stopped a series of attempts to hack the accounts of tens of thousands of Iranian users in an effort the company believes is an attempt to influence the election.

“For almost three weeks, we have detected and disrupted multiple email-based phishing campaigns,” Eric Grosse, the vice president for security engineering, wrote in a post on Google’s blog.

The phishing campaigns are originating in Iran, targeting users there and representing a big surge in the region’s hacking activity. They are apparently tied to Iran’s presidential election on June 14, Grosse said. “The timing and targeting of the campaigns suggest that the attacks are politically motivated,” he said, avoiding to give further details.