NewsSpecial WireMost Iranians stay at home on polling day

Most Iranians stay at home on polling day

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Dec. 15 – Voting stations were deserted on Friday which marked polling day for both the Assembly of Experts and the local city councils in Iran, according to eye-witness accounts and reliable reports. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Dec. 15 – Voting stations were deserted on Friday which marked polling day for both the Assembly of Experts and the local city councils in Iran, according to eye-witness accounts and reliable reports.

One eye-witness account from Jame’e Mosque polling station in Tehran’s 15th district said that less than a dozen people came to the site to vote. Even still, several of those that did said that they had cast blank ballots and that they had been forced to participate or face loosing their civil service jobs.

According to reports from Tehran, numerous other districts were empty throughout many hours of the day.

In contrast, there was a high number of uniformed Revolutionary Guardsmen and agents of the State Security Forces on patrol at the polling stations. SSF commander Ismaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam recently announced that his forces would not be permitted to take a leave of absence on election day.

For several weeks, Iranian officials had been promising bustling voting stations across the country.

The Iranian opposition had on the other hand urged Iranians to stay in their homes.

The head of the opposition National Council of Resistance, Maryam Rajavi, called on Iranians to “boycott the sham elections”.

The Interior Ministry had announced that some 46.5 million Iranians were eligible to vote.

Many Iranians have become disenchanted by promises of prosperity offered to them by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had vowed to fight corruption in the officialdom and distribute the country’s huge oil revenues.

In an apparent effort to get as many votes in as possible, the close of polling was extended from 19:00 local time to 22:00.

Still, officials were straining to dispel reports of low voter turnout.

Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel told reporters, “The sea in which Iran’s elections are taking place is calm. We are not witnessing a storm in which the election ship will sink”.

The head of the public relations desk at Tehran Province’s Prisons Bureau, Hamid Ghobadi, announced that mobile voting units had been set up so that all prisoners in the province would be able to cast their ballots.

“All prisoners in this province are going to the polls to cast their ballots just like other citizens”, Ghobadi said, adding, “Currently, mobile voting booths have been placed in [prison”> centres”.

Several voting stations in the Iranian capital which had been designated for foreign media to monitor the polls had far greater participation than most other centres.

Observers say officials had arranged for both elections to be held on the same day to increase voter participation in the Assembly of Experts polls.

The 86-member Assembly of Experts is an exclusively clerical body entrusted with the task of selecting the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Following strict vetting of candidates by the ultra-conservative Guardians Council, some districts were left with only one candidate.

Far from being a popularity contest, analysts have described the poll as a manifestation of factional feuding.

The factions are spearheaded by former President and current State Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and radical Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi.

Yazdi, who is believed to have the backing of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been a long-time mentor of hard-line President Ahmadinejad.

Assembly members are elected to eight-year terms. Polling was last conducted in 1998.

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