Iran elections: Conservatives have new friends to beat moderates

Iran elections: Conservatives have new friends to beat moderates

Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 24

By Khalid Kazimov - Trend:

Iranians will cast ballots on Feb. 26 to elect new parliamentarians and theologians for the country's top clerical body that appoints the country's most influential person, the Supreme Leader.

The key elections are taking place six weeks after the removal of international sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

While the moderate President Hassan Rouhani wants the majority of the seats in the currently conservative-populated parliament and the Assembly of Experts to be occupied by his supporters, the rival conservatives are making all-out efforts to protect the seats.

Moderates set to win

This morning the pragmatic Rouhani sent mass text messages to Iranians' cell phones urging them to head to the polls on Friday.

"Today the country needs you," the message read.

A strong vote in favor of moderates would help Rouhani to materialize his 2013 electoral promises and reinforce his chance to re-assume office ahead of the next year's presidential elections.

After removal of the sanctions, the next step for the moderate president to fulfill his electoral promises regarding economic situation and welfare in the country will be luring foreign investments.

Rouhani needs his allies in the parliament to give support for the administration's economic plans. After Rouhani's breakthrough in foreign policy, which led to the removal of sanctions, the rivals slowed down moderate president's attempts to go further with his economic and social reform promises.

Indeed, Rouhani needs the legislator's "go on" for attracting foreign investment and inking new oil deals to renew the country's aging industry and create new job opportunities.

For this purpose, through separate video appeals Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh and Ali Rabiee, Iran's minister of labor, requested Iranians to show high turnout in the upcoming elections.

"Elections are of high importance for our country. We decide about our fate through elections. If people want development in the country they should go to the polling stations," Zanganeh said.

Meanwhile a number of Iranian movie celebrities have backed the moderates through video messages posted online.

Conservatives backlash

Conservatives surprised Iranians prior to the first ballots after the removal of sanctions with a very rare move.

The surprising move came when the conservatives, who see their seats at the stake, decided to involve hoodlums (Louti in Persian) in the electoral campaign.

Just a couple of days ago a group of Louties appeared at a conservative electoral meeting in Tehran.

The participation of Louties, who look like movie characters, was surprising as they have never been widely involved in such gatherings.

On the contrary, the country's conservative dominated and state-run TV has depicted such characters as pro-king villains in historical dramas about the overthrown Pahlavi dynasty.

In the Iranian street culture, Louties represent the small gangs involved in minor crimes and sometimes grave ones. They are famous for street fights involving the use of knives.

Trying to attract different groups of voters during electoral campaigns is not such a surprise.

However, it seems very surprising that Iranian conservatives, who traditionally are after protecting Islamic values and principles, have decided to get help from Louties.

In a similar move a conservative candidate appeared in footage with people looking like hooligans, who are shown to vow support for conservatives at the upcoming elections.

Iranian Nobel laureate and lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, commenting on the issue has told Trend that the Iranian "hardliners", using such people, are aiming at securing more ballots in their own favor to stay in power and avoid losing privileges.

Meanwhile, she believes that Iranian authorities are planning to prove the system's legitimacy through elections.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran aims to attract a large number of voters to polling stations in order to show its legitimacy."

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