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2005-06-17

Iran Votes in Presidential Election

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Today’s elections in Iran are expected to be the closest presidential election in the country’s history. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is the leading candidate to succeed President Khatami. We go to Tehran to get a report. [includes rush transcript]

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is considered to be a leading candidate to succeed Mohammad Khatami in what is expected to be the closest presidential election in the country’s history. Opinion polls show Rafsanjani went into today’s vote with a very narrow lead and analysts are increasingly speculating the contest will go to a run-off next week.

Top reformist candidate Mostafa Moin and hard-liner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf are second and third in the polls.

Rafsanjani, who was president of Iran from 1989-1997, says he wants better ties with the West and less tension over Iran’s nuclear program. In an interview with CNN Tuesday, he said, "I think the time is right to open a new chapter with the United States."

Rafsanjani said Washington should gain Iran’s trust by unblocking billions of dollar of frozen assets.

The U.S. broke off diplomatic ties with Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and President George W. Bush labelled the country as part of the "Axis of Evil" in 2002. Despite the close race and competitive campaigns, Bush pre-emptively dismissed the elections. Bush said yesterday that in Iran, "Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy."

Today’s election poll follows an unprecedented protest by hundreds of women outside Tehran University Sunday calling for greater rights and a boycott of the election. That same day, a series of bombings across two cities left at least 10 people dead and injured dozens more. The Iranian government blamed two opposition groups as well as the United States and Britain for the bombings.

  • Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in San Francisco. He was in Tehran, Iran ahead of Friday’s presidential elections. His latest book is "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Norman Solomon. Norman Solomon is in Tehran. He’s Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His latest book is War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Norman.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Hi, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what’s happening today in Iran? Talk about the significance of these elections.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, as we speak, there are millions of people in the process of voting, and I think that the media coverage, as one might guess, in the United States has missed the real story. There is the emergence of what we might call a sort of a rainbow coalition that has gotten itself together behind Mostafa Moin, who is walking in the footsteps and has the support of the eight-year now termed out Reform President, Mr. Khatami. The reality is that you’ve got young people, academics, intellectuals, human rights activists, educated middle class people, big appeal that has taken hold with ethnic minorities, including 5 million Sunnis in the country. I was in a stadium here Tuesday night in Tehran with 10,000 people at a rally for the Moin campaign. This is a campaign eating into the lead of Mr. Rafsanjani, who basically in the context of Iran is a centrist. He used to be president for eight years back in a previous decade in the 1980s and 1990s. And he basically is somebody who is the one to beat. I think underlying all of this, though, is the fact that President Bush, coming out with a statement yesterday denouncing and trashing this election, took the next step in agenda setting for a missile attack on Iran. And you know, having spent now eight days in this country, interviewing several hundred people from Rafsanjani to the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini is being quite outspoken to poor people at the polls this morning, I have to say that there is a political process going on here. This election is filled with debate. It is flawed. It is within a superstructure that gives way too much power to clerics who are unelected, and yet there is a politics here. And there’s a huge lie being spun by the White House that somehow there’s not a political process with some validity in place, and ongoing with this election here in Iran today.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Norman Solomon for joining us. We’ll continue to talk about the Iranian elections on Monday. We’ll be joined in our studio here by Dilip Hiro and others. Norman Solomon, Institute for Public Accuracy, author of the book, War Made Easy, joining us from Tehran, Iran, where the elections, presidential elections, are taking place today.

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