Photo: Wednesday’s rally in Mashhad for moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani
With campaigning for Friday’s Presidential vote formally ended at 8 a.m. local time (0330 GMT), most candidates tried to boost support and win over the undecided with rallies.
The most notable of these, in size and volume, was from Mashhad for the moderate Hassan Rouhani. Amid signs of a continuing surge for the cleric, following the formation of a moderate-reformist coalition, tens of thousands chanted and sang for “freedom” — including for political prisoners such as 2009 candidate and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Informal gatherings were also held throughout the country, notably in the major squares and streets of the capital Tehran. Groups — sometimes numbering in the thousands — came out for Rouhani, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, lead nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalii, Supreme Leader advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, and Mohsen Rezaei, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards.
But does all of this point to a change in mood among Iranians for the election? On Wednesday, we led with a correspondent’s summary of a largely passive and resigned electorate but some observers and witnesses — noting in particular the Rouhani campaign — are claiming a shift. As one Tehran resident put it: “It’s like someone put something in the water last night and this morning people are just different.”
The rallies both highlighted and overtook another interesting development: the apparent concern of the regime, including the Supreme Leader, over voter turnout.
Ayatollah Khamenei’s call for mass participation extended to an unusual plea in his speech on Thursday. In a system marked by official and unofficial dislike of a focus on “Iran” rather than the “Islamic Republic”, the Supreme Leader said, “If someone doesn’t want to back the Islamic system, then surely that person wants back to his/her country.”
Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom
BBC Slams Iran Over Harassment Ahead of Election
The BBC issued a statement on Thursday evening condemning Iran for harassing and intimidating the family members of BBC Persian employees ahead of Friday’s Presidential election. Radio Farda previously reported a similar situation.
Liliane Landor, Controller, Languages Services at the World Service, said in the statement that:
The BBC is very concerned by the unprecedented levels of intimidation being suffered by families of BBC Persian Service staff living in Iran in the final days of the presidential election campaign.
In the past few days alone, 15 family members have been summoned for questioning by the Intelligence Ministry in Tehran and in other cities across the country. The harassment has included threats that relatives will lose jobs and pensions and be prevented from travelling abroad. For the first time the lives of BBC Persian TV staff living in the UK have also been threatened.
The BBC condemns this completely unacceptable harassment against our Persian TV service and other media organisations and independent journalists. Despite this intimidation and crude attempts to discredit our journalism, BBC audiences in Iran have almost doubled to 11.8m. This recognition by ordinary Iranians is a tribute to the professionalism and resilience of our journalists, and to the value of their work delivering unbiased news and programmes to Persian-speaking audiences.
Campaign Rivalries In Posters (Iran Primer)
Looking back at an election campaign by eight — eventually whittled down to six — candidates that the Western media has dismissed as indistinguishable, it is interesting to read this blog post by Garrett Nada of USIP’s Iran Primer, who has highlighted the various campaign posters produced by the candidates’ campaign teams. Nader discusses the various buzzwords and slogans each candidate has used to differentiate themselves and grab public attention.
Aref Tweets About Turnout
Reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref — who withdrew from the Presidential race in favor of moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani, tweets this graphic showing the turnouts at Iran’s past Presidential elections:
جدول زیر میزان مشارکت در #انتخابات ریاست جمهوری در ادوار ده گانه گذشته را نشان ميدهد twitter.com/MohamadRezaAre…
— MohammadRezaAref (@MohamadRezaAref) June 13, 2013
It is hard to predict whether there will be a large turnout at Friday’s poll. Both Aref and Rouhani have called on their supporters — who range from moderates through reformists and even some of the Green movement — to turn out and vote, saying that to do so will make a difference. A large turnout could therefore give Rouhani the edge he needs to go through into the second round, which will most likely be against Ghalibaf.
Rezaei: With All My Power, I Have Arrived
Independent Presidential candidate and former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei tweets these two photographs, just hours before the polls open in Iran. The second is captioned, on Twitter: With All My Power, I Have Arrived.
Video: Khamenei Tells Iranians To Vote For Iran If Not Islamic Republic
Footage of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s speech on Wednesday, in which he called on Iranians to come out to vote en masse, saying that: My prime recommendation is a enthusiastic participation. Maybe someone does not want to back the Islamic system, but then they surely want to back their country.”
Presidential Elections Will Go Into Second Round, Head of Council Elections Says
Conservative news website Entekhab uses Hossein Tala, head of the High Elections Oversight Committee for Islamic Tehran Province, City, and Village Councils, to say that the Presidential election will go into a second, run-off round. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/iran-city-council-elections.html#ixzz2W5x5bNpz
Jalili Accuses IRIB Of Bias, Says His Campaign Rally Was Biggest
Presidential candidate Saeed Jalili has continued to accuse State TV of bias, after saying earlier Thursday that IRIB had deliberately chosen not to cover his campaign rally at Tehran’s Heidarnia Stadium on Wednesday.Jalili accused IRIB of boycotting the rally in favor of that of his rival, Presidential candidate and Tehran mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf. Jalili’s campaign team accused IRIB of displaying political favoritism while taking public money:
#Iran state TV is apparently taking political side while getting funds from public treasury. #iranelection
— Saeed Jalili (@DrSaeedJalili) June 13, 2013
Jalili’s campaign team tweeted this link to Tasnim News, which shows pictures from yesterday’s campaign rally, including this photograph of two female supporters:
Presidential Election Watch: Rouhani Edition
This photograph, from a Rouhani supporter, shows a woman wearing the moderate candidate’s key emblem and a purple ribbon, the color of Rouhani’s campaign.
#Iran Nice photo from @hassanrouhani supporter. #انتخابات twitter.com/fahimn/status/…
— Fahim (@fahimn) June 13, 2013
Rouhani’s campaign aide, Morteza Bank, also gave an interview published Wednesday with pan-Arab news outlet al-Sharq al-Awsat, in which he said that if elected, Rouhani would push for better relations with Saudi Arabia. The article notes:
According to Bank, Rouhani views good relations with Iran’s immediate neighbors as his top foreign policy priority. He toldAsharq Al-Awsat: “The Persian Gulf region enjoys a special geostrategic and strategic position in Mr. Rouhani’s government.”
He said that, accordingly, “in order to improve relations with the neighboring countries, Saudi Arabia is Rouhani’s top priority.” Bank pointed to Rouhani’s service as the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for over a decade and the relationships he has built up with leaders and officials of neighboring states as proof of his ability to bolster relations.
He said: “Mr. Rouhani has very good experience in this matter, as he is the person who initiated and ensured the security agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia was signed.”
Bank added that regional governments would be eager to deal with a moderate government in Tehran, making the chances of success of Rouhani’s outreach more likely.
Google Alleges “Politically-Motivated” Phishing Attacks In Iran
Google reports on its security blog that in the past three weeks, the company has detected and stopped a number of phishing attacks directed at Iranian Gmail users. Google suggested that the attacks were likely to be politically motivated because of the upcoming elections. Phishing is an attempt to trick an email recipient into revealing confidential information, usually their password, by pretending to be a trustworthy person or organization.
A Supporter in Birjand With Poster of Mohsen Rezaei
The Rally for Rouhani
Another image from the Hassan Rouhani campaign of Wednesday’s rally in Mashhad:
Huge crowds take to streets of holy city of #Mashhad to welcome #Rouhani on Wednesday twitter.com/HassanRouhani/… — Rouhani Campaign (@HassanRouhani) June 13, 2013
A Rap Song for Jalili — But He’s Not Happy
Video of a rally in Mashhad for Saeed Jalili features a rap tribute from a young boy. Jalili’s campaign, however, was diverted by a complaint that State TV broadcast images from rallies of Mohammad Baqer-Qalibaf but not from those for its candidate:
بایکوت بزرگترین همایش انتخاباتی کشور در مهمترین بخشهای خبری سیما. تصاویر همایش همزمان دکتر قالیباف روی آنتن رفت، اما سعید جلیلی نه!
— Saeed Jalili (@DrSaeedJalili) June 13, 2013
The campaign also alleged that State TV, which had been covering candidates in alphabetical order, but moved Jalili to last place in recent days:
درحالیکه در خصوص سایر نامزدها ترتیب حروف الفبا را رعایت می شود، پوشش برنامههای جلیلی در سه روز اخیر در صداوسیما به آخر انتقال داده شده است.
— Saeed Jalili (@DrSaeedJalili) June 13, 2013