Monday, January 08, 2007

Tehran City Council Elections

Tehran is a big and sprawling city with intractable traffic and seemingly random road closures. The metro will take you from Mirdamad station, which was once in a far northern section of Tehran and is now close to its center, to the far southern reaches of the city where Tehran's huge graveyard is in just 30 minutes. Getting to Mirdamad station from northern Tehran can take anywhere from ten minutes to an hour depending on traffic. Getting to Khomeini’s tomb from northern Tehran will take 45 minutes at 3 am and up to 2 hours on a day with normal traffic.

That’s just north south. East west is equally large. It’s like Los Angeles, Kansas City, or even Jacksonville: rambling on and on with about as much organization as a rash.

The smart thing to do would be to divide the city into precincts and elect city council members precinct by precinct. Instead, Tehran residents all over Tehran vote for the same pool of candidates. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

Candidates have to run a city-wide campaign to get elected. With limitations on television advertising, this means flyers, posters, sms messages, radio, and balloons. It’s expensive to run for Tehran’s city council. It takes a huge organization. Posters go up like wall paper. One candidate pasted right on top of another.

To make matters even more complicated, each candidate is assigned a code about two days before the election. Ballots are only valid when the candidate’s name and the candidate’s code are written correctly. The most successful campaigners produce cards with candidate’s names and their assigned codes printed on them. This, of course, favors conservatives who have strong organizations. Who else can safely meet and organize in Iran? Simply put, only the conservatives and the fundamentalists have been able to meet with impunity.

Voting for independents or reformers for city council meant scanning through hundreds of names at the polling station itself. Posters with names and codes covered every wall of most polling stations. You had to look carefully, find your candidates, write down their codes, and then vote. Most voters had scrap paper and pens that they carried with them from poster to poster.

It’s a wonder that so many people voted in the city’s elections and that so many ballots were cast correctly.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I get your points. The status quo has it to fit their needs. But, I wonder if the enthusiasm of students with cell phones couldn't make up for the traditional land coverage by the fundamentalists. Well, students in the US would go door to door, if necessary. I don't guess that would be appreciated in Iran ;-) Still there must be some way to harness the youth network to rally people to a limited number of opposition candidates, WITHOUT getting into trouble.
Edo River rising

Aryamehr said...

28 years of coma. How much longer? 28 years of reformist vs conservative game? How much longer will people be fooled? 28 years of death and destruction of our people and nation; for how much longer? 28 years of our nation being known as a terrorist, backward, hostile nation thanks to the treason that took place in 1979.

Anonymous said...

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Reza said...

You're dead on correct.

Lance said...


This is an old thread now, but no english-language reporting ever mentions why a city election is important: 25% of the population lives in Teheran. It's like an election for the mayor of California and the Midwest, or the Western half of Canada.

ET said...

Well said, Lance.