Friday, June 12, 2009

Polls Remain Open as Voters Decide Direction of Country

By Andrea and Justin McMahan

TEHRAN – In one of the most highly anticipated elections in this country’s history, millions of Iranians cast their vote in the presidential elections today. More than 45,000 polling stations around the country remain open as we write this (10pm local time), thanks to the Interior Ministry’s decision to push back the voting deadline from 6pm to 11pm.

We had a chance to drop into a polling station held at a Mosque in central Tehran and witness firsthand Iran’s democratic process in action. Hundreds of people stood outside in the hot sun waiting to vote, as well as a considerable media presence that included a van belonging to NBC New York. As we approached the mass of people outside the Mosque we could see that crowd control was starting to be an issue. People were scattered around the sidewalk trying to edge closer to the poll entrance. A couple of locals spotted us immediately and approached us with interest. They wanted to know, quite innocently, where we were from and what we were doing here. We then had a short discussion with one man whose German was about as good as our Farsi. Before long, another English-speaking man interrupted to introduce himself as a university professor. As soon as he asked us our opinion on the election, however, our minder jumped in and admonished him. The man fired back something in Farsi and then the two proceeded to get into a short shouting match. We politely excused ourselves and started to head back to our car. It was then that our minder gave us a tongue lashing and reminded us that since we are visiting Iran on a tourist visa we are not allowed to engage in any politically-related activities. This included having political discussions with strangers.

We traveled together with him to a smaller, more peaceful polling station in a school not far from our hotel. He spoke with the officials and in charge, and they agreed to allow us in if we promised not to take any pictures. Voters here must write the name of their candidate on a piece of paper, or a number that corresponds to it. After voting, voters dip their fingers in purple paint, just like in Iraq and Lebanon. There were roughly as many women as men working the poll.

The rumor mill began to circulate this evening. We are fairly certain that the government, in an attempt to head off spontaneous rallies, has suspended all text messaging for 24 hours. We have also been told that the Interior Ministry will not commence vote counting until all ballots are in, which is not likely to be until around midnight. Results will not come in until tomorrow. Even then, a candidate must win more than 50% of the vote to win the election. With four candidates, that is unlikely. Iranians may need to do this again next Friday.

1 comment:

  1. This is great reporting guys! I have been thoroughly enjoying your blog. Good luck and be very careful. The Iranians are very hospitable on the surface but don't give them any reason so they get a chance to act 'stupid'. Stay safe.