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Poll shows Iran's presidential election field wide open


Tehran, June 11, IRNA-The presidential battle in Iran later this month is wide open, according to an IRNA poll, which shows the former higher education minister Mostafa Moin closing in on Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In the polling 45,834 participants across 25 battleground provinces, Rafsanjani won 27.1 percent of the votes against 18.9 percent garnered by Moin.

The results came when the respondents where asked, "Whom you will vote for?" But when asked who they thought would win the election, 20.4 percent said the former police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf would.

Rafsanjani would come second with 20.1 percent of the votes ahead of Moin who won 17.3 percent when the same question was put to the respondents.

Otherwise, 16.5 percent of those participating in the poll voted for Qalibaf ahead of the former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi with 10.8 percent.

Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad trailed with just 7.7 percent of the votes ahead of the former head of the state broadcasting Ali Larijani, Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh (5.9 percent) and the former head of the revolutionary guards Mohsen Rezai (4.7 percent).

However, none of the aspirants to replace President Mohammad Khatami would muster the 50 percent vote needed for an outright win in order to avoid a runoff election between the top two contenders, according to the poll.

In the polling, 54.8 percent of the respondents said they would 'definitely' participate in the election against 7.9 percent who said they would not take part.

Meanwhile, 43.3 percent said they believed the poll would attract a 'very large number' of the voters to the ballot boxes against 17.3 percent who thought otherwise.

Some 49.8 percent of the respondents aged between 15 and 29 years old, with the rest answering in the catagory of 30 years and above.

Khatami's eight-year tenure, who won a landslide reelection in 2001, was far from plain-sailing, and he repeatedly complained of lacking enough power to deliver on his promises.

Khatami saw his bid to prop up presidential powers quashed after two of his bills failed to make it through the screening of the country's supervisory apparatus.

He is nearing the end of his second consecutive term and the Constitution bars him from serving more than two consecutive mandates.

With campaigning already in full swing, there have been reports of attacks on reformists, including former deputy parliament speaker Behzad Nabavi, .

The Iranian press Saturday was awash with reports about the attack of an unknown group on Nabavi in the holy city of Qom where he had delivered a speech in support of Moin.

Moin as well as Mehralizadeh just squeaked into the list of the candidates after the Guardian Council initially disqualified them.

The two were among more than 1,000 aspirants who were disqualified from the election.

Nabavi's picture with a black eye and a cut to his head was splashed across several papers on the front page Saturday.

The attacks came even as Iran's Interior Ministry threatened Tuesday to disclose 'startling' tactics which 'certain candidates' had adopted ahead of the presidential election.

The ministry's spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani cited cases of 'attack on certain election headquarters and their supporters, involving insult and battery, as well as interference of certain institutions and organizations in the electoral process'.

"If these violations exceed the limits, we will talk more transparently and expressly in the coming days," the official warned in a news conference.

"Certain candidates are audaciously throwing the achievements of the (Islamic) Revolution into question," he said, without elaborating.

An IRNA correspondent had seen a bevy of cars, carrying posters of a presidential candidate in the upmarket San'at square in northwestern Tehran, with some of them playing loud Western music in broad daylight, much to the surprise of the onlookers.

"It is surprising that some individuals, who claim to be defending the existing establishment, have resorted to such tactics," Khanjani said.

"The achievements of the Islamic Revolution must not be brought into question for a handful of extra votes," he added.

The Interior Minister spokesman also cited cases of electoral violations, including placing billboards in public sites in the capital, saying the police and municipality had been turning a blind eye to them.

"During the previous parliamentary election, all the billboards of a certain political current were removed overnight, but it is questionable that this is not the case this time around.

"Tehran Municipality and Police not only have not cooperated with the Governorate in removing electoral violations, but have refrained from doing so," Khanjani said.

The official also cited other cases of violations, including writing graffiti and distributing 'night letters against the candidates' which he said are illegal.

Khanjani described interference of armed forces' in the election as 'dangerous', saying cases of such behavior 'have now gone beyond the limit of doubt'.

Last month, Interior Minister Adolvahed Moussavi Lari asked military forces to steer clear of the presidential election.

In a letter to the Guardian Council, Moussavi Lari protested to remarks attributed to the supervisory body's spokesman who had reportedly said that there was no legal ban on the military forces' intervention in the 'executive and supervisory domains' of the polls.

The interior minister has described the remarks as 'the cause of escalating concerns and a note of alarm against the entry of armed forces into the electoral process and a direct threat to a healthy election'.

In similar statements in the central city of Shiraz, Moussavi Lari cautioned the volunteer Basij forces against interfering in the election process.

"Basij, as a military force, cannot interfere in the presidential election and the interference of the Basij members is tantamount to the interference of other armed forces," he said.

"The whole set of the laws and directives served by the chief commander to all military and police forces has banned the interference of these forces in the elections.

"According to these laws, none of the members of the Sepah (the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps), Basij, army and police, have the right to interfere in the elections," Moussavi Lari added.

Electoral campaigning began on the morning of May 25 but few hours later hackers targeted Larijani's website, defacing his home page which resulted in its subsequent crash.

Larijani's electoral headquarters had also to deny reports that he intended to pull out of the race in favor of other candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"Unfortunately, this news is mostly being reported in the press by the supporters of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani," it said in a statement, denouncing the report as part of a 'psychological war'.

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