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Iran election 2017

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Iran’s presidential race down to four candidates

Girls attending a rally supporting conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, 16 May 2017 Jan van der Made

Only four candidates are left in Iran’s presidential race. On Tuesday, Eshaq Jahangiri urged people to vote for Hassan Rouhani during his last speech in Shiraz. Two days earlier, Tehran mayor Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf had thrown the towel in the ring and presented himself as a running mate for Ebrahim Raisi, the hardline nemesis of incumbent president Hassan Rouhani.

At night, the streets of Tehran are filled with honking of cars and screaming and  people whistling to express support for their chosencandidate.

Four candidates left

Four candidates are now left: Rouhani and Raisi,  Mostafa Hashemetiba of the Executives of Construction Party, and the conservative former law enforcement tzar Mostafa Mir-Salim. 

Many people in the street appear to be discussing the pro’s and cons of their choices, and most people seem to have made up their minds as to what they will vote.

In a large university complex outside Tehran, students don’t seem to agree:

“I want someone to be elected who would be like a mother to Iran,” says Maya, a student.

“Someone who cares about the future of this country, because the situation of this country is so precarious these days.”

She aruges that Iran’s economy must be improved if only “for the future of younger people.”

But Regina, who this year votes for the first time, is more optimistic.

“I am just going to give it a try and I’m hoping that Mr. Rouhani is going to win the elections. The  past few years I’ve seen things that I haven’t seen in the past eight years in [previous president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad’s time.

"[Rouhani] gave us hope, and we’ve been through a lot of things, like the sanctions and the inflation. But getting into a hole is much easier than getting out of it.”

Others definitely don’t want to return to the years of Ahmadinejad.

“There is more freedom and some of the things that were bad in the Ahmadinejad time got better,” says Zinalafori, another student, who says it is “quite certain” that Rouhani will be victorious.

 “Many students were kicked out of the University without much reason; many political and cultural associations in the universities were closed. Those things didn’t happen that much in Rouhani’s time,” he says.

And for Edwan, Rouhani put Iran back on the diplomatic map.

”I like to travel the world, so for me, it means having good relations with other countries, with visa and stuff, that’s the good thing for me,” he says.

But during a massive rally for Raisi, late in the afternoon in the Mosalla Mosque in Tehran, many people echo his complaint that Rouhani did not deliver, that he did not manage to have the sanctions lifted and that he had “invited foreigners in to mind Iran’s business.”

"We’ve had Rouhani for four years," says Berbam Salet, who hands out small cards with a picture of Raisi on the front.

“And after these four years, we just come to this: nothing has happened in this country.”

Many people group around him, gesticulating, and saying that they feel "cheated" by Rouhani's previous campaign promises.

Uncertain future

But some feel depressed, no matter who wins.

“There is nothing good for the future of this country,” says Marsa, looking sad from under her black headscarf.

“The major candidates are Mr. Raisi and Mr. Rouhani. But the Supreme Leader of Iran backs Mr. Raisi. That is bad, he is a radical and we will be more isolated in the world. And even if Mr. Rouhani wins, problems will remain. They have to obey the supreme leader. It won’t change,” she says.

The ultimate power of the Grand Ayatolla Ali Khamenei and his Council of twelve Guardians and their apparatus of Revolutionary Guards is not a point of discussion during these elections, and it is not something that any candidate will dare to raise.

“That should change,” admits Adwan.“But it is not an easy thing to do,” admitting that he thinks it will not happen in his lifetime.

“Maybe my children will see it, but not me,” he adds.