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Voting for change
Skeptical Iranians will vote to defeat conservatives

Written & photographed by Dokhi Fassihian
February 17, 2000
The Iranian

On my first day in Tehran, two days before the sixth parliamentary elections, the city was bustling with activity. On this particularly bright and sunny winter day, Tehranis went about their business as they were constantly interrupted on the street by hired hands passing out thousands of tiny fliers advertising for the many candidates vying for Majlis seats. (See Dokhi Fassihian's photos of political posters in Tehran here)

Iran's campaigning style continues to change -- municipal authorities have prohibited a previous free-for-all poster competition which had left Tehran a mess after the town council elections last year. This time, banners with slogans, instead of pictures, have been strategically placed around the major intersections and squares and smaller posters have been pasted in designated areas.

It seems residents are ready for the elections after months of political battles and positioning. Yet, they are still skeptical about whether they can make a real difference in terms of changes which will affect their day-to-day lives.

"I don't want to vote this time, but my friends say we should at least choose the better of two evils and keep the likes of [former president Aytollah Akbar] Rafsanjani out of power," a young cabbie told me on the way to this Internet cafe from where I an writing in northern Tehran. "But I will vote, just to support Khatami and what he is trying to do."

Earlier today, another taxi driver told me he didn't believe there was a reason for him to vote. "Why should I vote for a person and think he is coming to office to work for me? The reality is that he is running for office to line his own pockets."

The outside world seems much more hopeful as officials in world capitals watch closely for some sign of change in Iran -- these elections serve as another opportunity to hope for moderation in Iranian politics. The sight of an inordinate amount of foreign reporters in Tehran attests to this. The Laleh Hotel has been set-up as the press headquarters for the elections.

Hundreds and hundreds of reporters from all around the world roam Tehran. Restaurants and hotels accross the city are packed as sights of interviews. The temporary press office of the Ministry of Culture struggled to issue press cards as more and more journalists arrived.

As election day closes in, we stand ready and waiting for the people to make their choice and for the regime to react. We won't know immediately who the winners will be. The second round of voting will be at least two weeks after Friday's first round. Only those candidates who win at least 25% of the vote in the first round will become Majlis deputies and very few are expected to reach this number.

Also, political parties and platforms have been blurred. Many think this has been done on purpose by the regime. Rafsanjani's entrance into the race, as well as inconsistent and contradictory lists of candidates based on personal alliances, and restrictions on campaigning have left people lacking clear information about their choices.

Nevertheless the "Dovvom-e Khordad" alliance represented by the Islamic Participation Front -- the pro-Khatami faction -- seems to enjoy more popularity. (See Dokhi Fassihian's photos of political posters in Tehran here)

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