Iranian democracy


"Stay away from politics and religion unless your Iranian host broaches the subject first," warms the Lonely Planet.

Politics is all we've talked about. That's all anyone's talking about. And then we go visit mosques every day.

The Iranian election for president is reaching fever pitch, with 70 million people going to the polls on 12 June. Polls say that the reformist candidate, Musavi, will take 60 percent of the vote, ousting the incumbent, Ahmadinejad. Mind you, those figures were given to me by a man wearing a green ribbon, the colour of Musavi's campaign.

Here in Isfahan each night, hordes of young boys on motorbikes tear through the streets waving posters of one of the two main candidates, beeping their horns and shouting slogans.

It's all quite crazy and doesn't feel sinister at all, though last night as we were walking home, we passed a square where a young guy had set up a screen and was broadcasting a debate between the parties and about 100 people were watching until the police came and pulled the sound plug. A lot of people immediately jumped on their motorbikes and nicked off, and we followed suit, but heard the sound coming back on as we walked away, looking for a taxi.

Musavi is running under the one word slogan, 'Change', which has been taken up by the young people and students of Iran. This is an important point as something like 70 percent of the population is under 35.

It does mean, however, that the presidential elections at times resemble student politics, as kids stick posters on cars at the lights, take to flag-waving motorbike cavalcades and tie green ribbons on passers by.

In contrast, Ahmadinejad has history on his side, as it's a rare occurence a president has not served the two terms that they are entitled to undertake. His campaign posters show him in various poses of humility, from sitting on a floor with a notebook and pen to deferring to an old man, head lowered.

Whoever wins, there will still be the Supreme Leader over the top of them, currently the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. First prize, in Iran, surely comes with conditions.

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