IRAN: Iranians prepare to go to the polls to elect the Assembly of Experts as well as city councils.Record ID: 313734
- Title: IRAN: Iranians prepare to go to the polls to elect the Assembly of Experts as well as city councils.
- Date: 14th December 2006
- Summary: (BN10) QOM, IRAN (DECEMBER 10, 2006) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF HOLY SHRINE IN QOM, GOLDEN DOMES/ ENTRANCE
- Reuters ID: LVA7ZY4I06FM16G4K0Z4K7Y16101
- Duration: 00:00:14
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: Campaigning ended on Thursday (December 14) in Iran before Friday's (December 15) elections that will be the first popularity test for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since he won the presidency last year.
Iran's 46.5 million eligible voters will choose city councils as well as the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body which appoints, supervises and can dismiss Iran's highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Posters of bearded clerics in turbans running for what is, in theory, the most powerful institution in the Islamic Republic have been pasted on walls or flutter from trees along streets.
"We should choose competent candidates for the Assembly of Experts, because they provide powerful backing for our country's leader," said cleric Ali Hosseini, speaking from Qom, the centre of Shi'ite Muslim learning in Iran.
In the Assembly of Experts race, some candidate lists include both moderate clerics like former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his arch opponent, firebrand Ayatollah Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, seen as Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor.
Some reformists say Mesbah-Yazdi wants to dominate the assembly in a bid to impose his vision of rule where authority is drawn from God not the people's vote. But clerics say he does not have enough clerics running to achieve that goal.
Reformists, who want experts from other fields not just theologians in the assembly, are hardly present in the race because they were either barred by a conservative panel that vets hopefuls or, expecting to be blocked, did not sign up.
"There are some duties, some responsibilities for the Assembly of Experts. It has been mentioned in our constitution. The main responsibility of them is to announce the leader, to introduce the leader to the people. They elect the leader," said cleric Mehdi Hadavi, speaking in Qom.
But many Iranians feel the assembly has little to do with their everyday lives, putting the spotlight on the council vote.
The Tehran City Council race has turned into a key battleground in the nationwide race for city and rural councils Reformists, routed in the 2003 council vote and defeated in the parliament and presidency races, are seeking a comeback. Whether they can win seats in Tehran, where they hold none, will test whether they can challenge Ahmadinejad in the future.
For some, voting is seen as a matter of national pride.
"I will vote tomorrow, because the Iranian nation should show the world that we are a powerful nation and we decide issues for our country through elections," said Ali Asgari, a resident of Tehran.
Many voters are wary of pre-electoral hype and hope candidates will deliver on their promises.
"Our expectation from candidates is to deliver their promises and not to forget the people after winning the election," said Mohammad Reza Javaheri.
Many voters stayed home in the 2003 councils race, disillusioned with the failure of reformists to deliver their promises of creating a freer society and tired of their internal squabbling. This handed victory to conservatives.
Now reformists have united for the councils race. But conservatives are split, mainly between supporters of Ahmadinejad and those backing Tehran's mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who lost in the 2005 presidential race.
Results may not be released until at least 48 hours after polls close on Friday. Forecasting is hampered because Iran has no reliable opinion polls and lacks disciplined parties.
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