Friday, December 15, 2006

Elections in Tehran

The polls in Tehran were packed today as Tehranis went to the polls to vote for city council members (oh yeah, and the Council of Experts and a couple of Parliament seats).

This is the first time I’ve seen full polling stations. During the presidential elections, the polls we saw were empty (even though the Iranian news teams managed to find a couple of busy ones). The one near our house was packed from morning to night.

So, let me describe it to you: the polling stations are covered with posters listing all of the candidates along with an additional code for the city council candidates. There must have been a couple of hundred names printed on the walls.

To get a ballot, you wait in a long line. Hand in your id and give your fingerprint three times. After that, you get three empty ballots: one for city council, one for the Council of Experts, and one for the mid-term Parliament elections. The city council and c of e have about 15 (am I right?) blanks. If you don’t select 15 candidates, you cross out the remaining empty spots.

People crowd the posters, searching for their candidates and their codes. They scribble those onto a scrap of paper and then transcribe them onto the official ballots. There is no privacy. There are no booths or curtains. No one we see is even attempting to keep their ballot a secret.

Voting is not easy here. It is a real pain: a little bit like learning all of those horrible referenda in California.

Filled ballots go into the appropriate boxes. You get your id back and, if you are lucky, a piece of candy, and then you leave.

Many of our friends voted for the first time in ages during this election. “We have to vote,” a friend tells me. “We have to send a signal that we are still here… still fighting. I am dragging my husband to the polls. I told him that not voting only helps the conservatives. I think he agrees now.”

So… keep your fingers crossed: the results of Tehran’s city council elections will be interesting.


Anonymous said...

Well, I certainly hope Tehran gets at least a hung council. That way they won't mess things up any further. Can you believe the bloody plastic palm trees?

ET said...

What really cracks me up are the plastic palm trees and big plastic pineapples in Ahwaz.

What about the world's biggest flower clock or the decorated tress (rumored to cost 7 million tumans each)? Every time I pass these things I wonder how that contract was signed?