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Turnout Crucial In Iranian Election

Campaign workers speak to potential voters in Iran in the run-up to the 17 June vote 15 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Although early polls in the run-up to the 17 June Iranian presidential election predicted there would be a low turnout, two more recent surveys indicted that most voters are planning to go to the polls.

Iranian state radio on 11 June reported that a poll of 46,034 people in 25 provinces conducted by IRNA found that 54.8 percent of eligible voters will definitely vote and another 15.5 percent say they will "almost certainly vote." In late May, a survey commissioned by the Fars News Agency and conducted by an unidentified polling service found that 68 percent of the respondents confirmed they would vote and another 16.3 percent said they probably would vote, "Kayhan" reported on 6 June.

Back on 24 April, by comparison, Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani cited a survey that said some 42 to 51 percent of the Iranian public planned to vote, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Elected officials' perceived inability to achieve results has led to general apathy, and since 1997 this has resulted in falling voter participation figures. Furthermore, some student groups and political activists have called for an election boycott.

Several Iranians told state television on 14 June why they would not vote. "It is obvious who will win," one young woman said. While a young man agreed, saying, "it is clear from the beginning to the end." "My vote doesn't count," a middle-aged man concluded.

The regime will view a high turnout as a sign of its legitimacy and an indication of public support for the current system. At the same time, low turnout would benefit the hard-liners, whose supporters are more easily mobilized. A high turnout, on the other hand, could yield a surprise, as it did in 1997, when more than 80 percent of the electorate voted and a reformist dark horse won the race.