Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Front-Runner in Iran Finds Students to Be a Tough Audience - New York Times

Front-Runner in Iran Finds Students to Be a Tough Audience - New York Times:

"'If Mr. Ahmadinejad comes to power, it will be a complete concentration of power like you have never had before in Iran,' said Amir Ali Nourbakhsh, a political and economic analyst in Tehran. He added, 'The question that will be answered for us will be, 'Will Iranians vote for radical Islamic socialism, yes or no?' '

But many of Mr. Ahmadinejad's supporters said they were not thinking that way, seeing him instead as a fresh face and a man of the people, while Mr. Rafsanjani is seen as a throwback, a part of a system they distrust.

'In my opinion, if Mr. Rafsanjani wins, they will have to replace his turban with a crown,' said Aida Shafiee, 20, a university student who was in the street on Tuesday protesting the failure of the Education Ministry to begin her program on time.

In fact, the street was crowded with protesters, young men and women, voicing their discontent. It looked like a natural constituency for the reform movement, but most everyone in the crowd said they supported Mr. Ahmadinejad.

'He has come from the people, and he is honest,' said Mehdi Gholamnia, 20, a student from the city of Bijar who said he voted four years ago for Mr. Khatami but this year will vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad. Iranians can vote when they are 15.

Mr. Rafsanjani's partisans were clearly taking the contest seriously and had stepped up their attacks on Mr. Ahmadinejad, with messages flashing on cellphones all over Tehran warning that he would usher in a Taliban-style government and put up dividers to separate men and women riding in elevators."

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