|Sixty-five per cent of Iran's population, or about 46 million people, are eligible to vote [AP]
With presidential election in Iran just a day away, there is heated debate over who will be chosen as the country's next leader.
Iranian newspapers are giving saturation coverage to the poll. The following are a few excerpts from what local newspapers are reporting.
Although officially the campaigning for Friday's vote will stop this morning at 8:00 am, it will be hard to turn off the election fever. Supporters of all sides are expected to be wearing the colours of their favourite candidates and carrying their posters all the way until Friday.
However, these rallies and gatherings have been observed only in the major cities. [The current president] Mr Ahmadinejad's base support is in the rural areas, where it is hard to take a poll or get a general opinion.
An estimated 15 million of the eligible voters reside in rural areas. Studies from previous elections have shown that election turnout in rural areas is higher than in urban areas.
All in all, nothing can be predicted for the 10th presidential election. However, we'll see how it turned out early Sunday morning.
The prospects of democracy in Iran depend in large parts to the wisdom of the leaders and activists in this wonderful pro-democracy coalition. It also depends on the willingness of the Iranian people to decide that freedom and democracy are worth sacrifice.
The continuation of dictatorship and repression in Iran depends not only on the decisions of the fundamentalist dictators, but also on the decisions of the opposition leaders and the people of Iran.
Let's hope that after over 100 years of the struggles for freedom and democracy, this time the Iranian people succeed.
All the candidates, including Ahmadinejad, have pledged to continue Iran's efforts to enrich uranium, despite UN sanctions. All of them share hostility toward Israel. But the challengers say Iran should reach out to other nations and soften the tone of its foreign policy, which is largely set by the country's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During a visit to Iran's Kurdish region this month, Khamenei urged voters not to support "pro-Western" candidates.
Both [Mir Hossein] Mousavi's and [Mehdi] Karroub's [two leading candidates] election platforms, however, are vague compared with Ahmadinejad's strong rhetoric and financial handouts. They call for more personal freedoms, vow to reinstall key officials ousted by Ahmadinejad's government and want to end intrusive patrols by the morality police. Their main selling point, though, is that they are not Ahmadinejad.
This election is nothing new for the Iranians, but this time people are more than before informed of the hopefuls' mindset. The reason is that for the first time, they went into one-on-one televised debates which captivated tens of millions in the country and abroad.
Foreign-based satellite televisions and their media sought as usual to sow seeds of discord between Iranian people. This time, they changed tack and they tried to divide people into different groups and make people believe that candidates are enemies of one another.
But the Iranians could not be duped so easily and they will certainly participate in a clean election, no matter who would win. The important thing is that any would-be president is obliged to work for the prosperity of the country.
For the Western oriented, mostly Western educated Iranians any departure from what they see as a retrogressive religious conservatism would be a welcome change.
In reality, most foreign-based Iranians, whether they have any intention of ever returning to their original homeland, prefer to see an Iran molded in a Western model, adopting idealised versions of Western values and principles, regardless of their applicability to that culture.
But the nation is comprised of as many or more voting citizens who continue to support that little fellow and his folksy and incendiary style. And let us not forget that, even though here in the West the concept of an Iranian democracy is regarded as an oxymoron, a comment by Dr Zbigniew Brzezinski [who was the national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, former US president] during a recent speech at Rand Corporation paints a different picture.
To paraphrase, he said that while one can predict who will be the president in Russia in 2012, no one can predict the result of the presidential elections in Iran!
What this means is that, like it or not, every vote cast by the educated and enlightened elite is countered by a vote by the traditionalist conservative – and every vote carries the same weight.
A bloc of 200 principlist Iranian MPs have thrown their weight behind incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his bid for a second term in office, the official IRNA news agency reported Monday.
"Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nominated by the Osulgharayan bloc in parliament to be the fittest candidate for the presidency," the report said.
The president had earlier won the support of other principlist groupings in the Islamic Republic, including the Followers of Imam and Leader's Line - a coalition of 14 conservative parties.
The Qom Seminary School Scholars Association, one of the leading establishments, in May announced it would back Ahmadinejad although support was not unanimous.
Another clerical establishment, the Militant Clergy Association, last month announced its support for the incumbent president.