Iran Goes to the Polls as Time Runs Out on the Ahmadinejad Era

The Atlantic

Iranians are voting in their first presidential election since the "Green Revolution" of 2009, and despite the tragedy of the last vote, reformers are still hopeful they put one of their own in office. Friday's voting hours were extended due to long lines and high interest, but it's still too early to know who will have the edge, or if the vote will truly reflect the people's wishes. 

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The president of Iran's influence on government policy is only marginal, of course, but as the public face of the country, the man who wins (women aren't allowed to run) can help shape the national agenda or become a thorn in the side of other nations. Former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili appears to be the favorite of the hardliners and the Ayatollahs who actually run Iran, but the more liberal voters — particularly in the largest city, Tehran — are leaning toward Hassan Rouhani, a more moderate "reformer," who has the endorsement of two of Iran's five former presidents. If no one gets 50 percent (a real possibility in a field with six candidates and several hardliners dividing the conservative vote), there will be run-off at the end of next week.

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If Rouhani can pull off the upset, if would give hope to those wishing for a more open Iran—a chance they were denied after 2009's controversial vote handed re-election to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That's led to weeks of some of the largest protests in Iran's history, followed by a brutal crackdown by the regime that shocked the world. (Remember Neda? The Iranians sure do.)

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It's worth noting again that this is also the last hurrah of Ahmadinejad. The current president is term-limited, and since his actual influence over Iran has always been somewhat questionable, there's a good chance we won't hear much from him in the future. (Another former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, tried to run again this time and the clerics kicked him off the ballot.) It would take too long to recount all his screwball antics, but it's okay if you want to take a moment to get wistful about his ludicrous anti-American and/or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. You're not going to have ol' Mahmoud to kick around anymore.

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