Disillusion clouds key pockets as Iran gets ready to vote
TEHRAN LIKE many members of Iran’s paramilitary volunteer force, Mohammadreza Baqeri was a supporter of Iran’s conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Nearly three years after Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection, the 27-year-old blogger says he will not vote for Ahminadejad’s camp in parliamentary elections on Friday.
“I want new faces. I want a vocal parliament that can have an impact in the country,” said Baqeri, a member of the Basij paramilitary force. “I want a parliament with young and ambitious lawmakers.” From a working-class background, Ahmadinejad scaled the heights of Iranian politics through promises to help Iran’s devout and impoverished masses.
Until recently, he was hailed as a protector of the less fortunate who invested considerable hope in a man few people had heard of before his election in 2005.
His traditionalist, populist outlook also endeared him to young Iranian conservatives, like Baqeri, who were eager to find their role in the future of the Islamic Republic.
With more than two-thirds of the population under the age of 30, it was a crucial support base and one that Ahmadinejad is desperate to retain. But since then things have not gone so well.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed his disputed re-election in 2009, a ballot the opposition said was rigged. A rift developed soon after. The spat came to the fore after Ahmadinejad sacked his intelligence minister, only for the Supreme Leader to reinstate him.
Ahmadinejad has also been blamed for his handling of the economy, which alongside sanctions against Iran, has resulted in soaring inflation and a sinking currency.
“The economic conditions have worsened,” said Baqeri, giving a critique of Ahmadinejad’s policies.
“People want lawmakers who can improve the economy.” Like Baqeri, many young Iranians are disappointed with the current political outlook.
This is especially true of supporters of reformist candidates.
With reformist parties banned and leading figures refusing to participate, their supporters feel dejected and vulnerable. Opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have been under house arrest for over a year. “I won’t bother voting again, said Alireza, a physics graduate from Tehran University. “My vote in 2009 brought no changes.
Our protests didn’t change anything either.” The stage is set for the victory of candidates loyal to Ayatollah Khamenei.
Analysts say they can count on the support of around 20 million voters. If those parties dominate, as expected, it will extend Khamenei’s influence over what will happen in the presidential elections in 2013.
In the east of the city, Shaqayeq sits in her apartment drinking coffee.
The 37-year-old women’s rights activist spoke about the difficulties for women in the current political environment and said she had given up waiting for change happen.
“I don’t have much hope for reforms and reformists anymore,” she told Reuters.
“Although parliament has the power to pass laws on divorce, inheritance, child custody and other legal matters directly impacting women, previous parliaments have done little for women.” There were just eight sitting women MPs in the previous parliament and Iranian media has reported that the number of women candidates who registered for Friday’s elections has fallen by more than 30 percent.