First Published: 2017-05-19

Festive mood as Iranians flock to polls
With no booths in Iranian polling stations, voting often turns into communal activity as people debate, discuss their choices openly.
Middle East Online

Iranians cast their ballots at Lorzadeh mosque polling station in southern Tehran

TEHRAN - It was a festive mood across Tehran Friday as thousands lined up to vote, many coming with family and friends to debate and help each other navigate the complex choices.

There are no booths in Iranian polling stations, and voting often turns into a communal activity as people discuss their choices openly and help each other fill out the forms, which must be written by hand.

As well as picking a president between incumbent moderate Hassan Rouhani and hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, they also had to select 21 local councillors.

Some were dressed up for the occasion.

One couple showed up in their wedding outfits before heading off to get married -- part of a recent trend for couples getting hitched on election day -- while Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi cast his ballot in his blue surgical gowns.

For the first time, Iranians rushed to the polls early in the morning, saying they were keen to encourage as high a turnout as possible.

"We came early to encourage others to come. We've taken pictures of ourselves and put them on social media," said Mansoureh, a 45-year-old university lecturer.

Many carried lists of councillors advised by reformists or conservatives on their mobiles and helped elderly people fill out their ballots.

A group of women, with the loose and colourful headscarves of more liberal Tehranis, searched for Rouhani's code on the board, lost among the posters for the 2,700 council candidates.

At one of the biggest mosques, the Hosseinieh Ershad, a friendly debate was going on between an elderly Rouhani supporter and a young clerical student backing Raisi.

"Outside Tehran, people are having a really difficult time, and our foreign policy should have more authority," said the cleric, a 20-year-old called Morteza.

The elderly man politely responded that Rouhani was right to cut back on subsidies, fix the country's finances and invest in infrastructure.

Nearby, a woman scolded another voter in line for wearing purple, which was Rouhani's campaign colour.

"This is very bad. You are telling people who you are voting for -- they could invalidate all our votes from here!" she cried.

A distinction exists, it seems, between discussing your ballot with friends and advertising your choice to the world.

- App assistance -

With the turnout looking far bigger than last year's parliamentary election, thousands joined a group on popular messaging app Telegram in a bid to locate polling stations with smaller queues.

At a Tehran school, excitement broke out when one of the candidates, reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba, showed up to vote, waiting politely in line.

In a sign of the oddities of the Iranian system, he voted for Rouhani and called on his supporters to do the same.

The Guardian Council allowed only six people to stand in the election, of whom four ended up acting as back-up for the main candidates.

Hamed Boroujerdi, 40, who owns a clothing store, took turns with his wife as they minded their two small children outside the school.

"We hope things don't get worse in terms of the economy and politics so we voted Rouhani," he said.

Others were voting for the first time, including 51-year-old Amir Fathollahzadeh.

"I've almost lost my entire business in past years and now I want to vote Rouhani so at least I don't lose my dignity and pride," he said.

He hopes Rouhani can build on his success in reducing sanctions on Iran so that he can more easily import phones and tablets.

But at a nearby mosque, where men and women lined up in separate queues, it was primarily Raisi supporters.

"I've always voted," said Mahanz Rafii, 50, a theology professor, wearing her head-to-toe chador robes.

"Unfortunately in recent years the dialogue of revolution has been weakened. People should restore the revolution's path."

 

Iraq forces press Mosul offensive

Tunisian public health sector struggles to heal itself

Morocco fugitive protest leader arrested

Mattis: Civilian deaths a 'fact of life' in war on IS

Syria girls escape war with Snow White

Israel interior minister questioned on graft suspicions

Tunisia security forces kill IS fugitive

Egypt’s left-wing parties start searching for Sisi competitor

Political scandal grips new Algerian government

Jordan gearing up for another Ramadan with refugees

Egypt’s left-wing parties start searching for Sisi competitor

US urged to keep track of its Iraq arms supply

Images emerge of Manchester bomber as runners defy threat

Qatar risks US sanctions over support for Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood

Libya jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

Iran leader launches fierce attack on ‘milking cow’ Saudis

US-Turkish relations go from bad to worse

Egypt hits jihadists as IS claims deadly attack on Christians

Britain arrests two more in Manchester attack probe

Turkey charges opposition newspaper staff

Death toll in Tripoli clashes reaches 52

Hundreds of migrants rescued in major operation off Libya

Palestinians end mass hunger strike in Israel jails

Egypt Christians bury victims with tears, anger

Ramadan in Libya: little cash, much violence

UN braces for up to 200,000 Iraqis to flee Mosul

Iraq forces launch broad attack on IS holdouts in Mosul

Civilians flee IS-held Syria cities after deadly strikes

At least 28 dead in Tripoli clashes

UN says nations bombing IS must protect civilians

26 killed in attack on Egypt Christians

Turkey identifies 'intelligence weaknesses' before coup attempt

Tunisia opens trial over 2015 beach massacre

Syria army takes control of key road

US-led strikes kill 35 civilians in east Syria

Probe finds over 100 Mosul civilians killed in US air strike

Palestinian president says US should mediate hunger strike

Libya says working closely with Britain over concert attack

EU leaders, Erdogan meet in bid to ease tensions

Myanmar to deport Turkish family wanted for alleged coup links

Iran says it has built third underground missile factory

Trump gets rough ride in EU, NATO meeting

Saudi minister confident on oil output deal

Egyptians brace for austere Ramadan

Qatari FM says country victim of smear campaign, particularly in US