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Potatoes have become a hot election issue in Iran, even though the country's main dish is rice.

In recent weeks, the authorities have distributed free potatoes to the needy in several Iranian cities. The popular "Tabnak" website has published photos of free potatoes being packed for distribution in Isfahan.

Reformists and others have said the freebies are just a cheap tactic by the Ahmadinejad government ahead of the June presidential election. Check out cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar's take (the potatoes are saying they support him.)

Another website, "Jomhoriyat," reports that the free potatoes were sent back from Latin American countries such as Venezuela and are old and wormy.

One of the main election candidates close to the reformist camp, Mir Hossein Musavi, mentioned the potato issue in his first press conference last week saying that his election campaign does not have the money to distribute "ash" (thick Iranian soup) and potatoes.

But the hard-line "Kayhan" daily hit back and said that a psychological war has been launched against the government.

Iran's Agriculture Jihad minister gave an explanation of sorts on April 12. He said that the potatoes were being distributed because of surplus production and that the government had been giving away potatoes from the beginning of the last Iranian year, but that only recently had people become "sensitive" about it.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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