Iranians vote for their future

Need for improved international relations and stronger economy draws voters to polls in Iran’s presidential election.

In the mosque there were all kinds of people the religious, more religious, less religious. Old people, young people, professionals, workers. But everyone was there to do the same thing, vote.

Their motivations were different, some of them vastly so.

In Hosseini Ershad, one of the most popular polling stations in northern Tehran, the voting line spread out the door and along the footpath – it stayed that way all day. Campaign posters and leaflets built up in the gutters, others were tattered and falling apart on walls, not only there but across the country. Campaigning was done, it was voting time.

At Hosseini Ershad, a woman who identified herself as Ms Motallebi and who was dressed in a chador, said she was voting to support her country. Her father was killed in the Iran-Iraq war and she still believed in the revolution.

“I vote to support my country and my revolution because so many people have been sacrificed to push this revolution ahead … we are all proud to be Iranians and we expect our government, especially the next president, to devote themselves to the people and the country,” said Motallebi.

Another young woman, an English translator who declined to be named, said she had had enough of the empty promises and lack of action in past decade. So she was now voting for “pragmatism”.

She said she wanted change, that her first priority was not the economy, but repairing relations with the international community. Many of the people in Hosseini Ershad emphasised that point too – Iran’s standing in the world needs to change, the country needs to fix relations with foreign countries in order to move ahead.

Some of Iran’s Paralympics athletes were there too powerlifter Amir Sajad Yousefizadeh told Al Jazeera that he wanted to see an improvement in the lives of disabled people.

“We expect our president to provide more facilities for disabled people and pay more attention to them to facilitate our presence in public places,” he said.

Reformist candidates Mohammed Reza Aref arrived early – he had pulled out of the race after a request from reformist leader and former president Mohammed Khatami.

There was no boycott message from that camp – they were backing Hassan Rouhani. Aref was mobbed outside and inside the polling station – eventually he was able to cast his vote and said it was the duty of Iranians to vote.

Hoping for prosperity

But in the city’s south, the message was different it was clearly about the economy. In Khorasan, a more traditional area, of the people who agreed to disclose for whom they were voting, most said Saeed Jalili – Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and a hardliner.

Mohammad Javad Najar came to vote with three of his friends. All are first-time voters. He is a university student, who called Iran a democracy which respects human rights. He said he was voting because he has his own future to think about.

“This is our first time voting for someone who is going to build our futures. We have got many expectations of the next president, we hope he makes plans especially for the youth and provides them with job opportunities, housing facilities so they can get married and have a bright future,” said Najar.

“We don’t want to experience the same situation as those who were born in the 80’s and 90’s, overpopulation during the 80’s has caused a lot of problems for youth today. We hope that the next president can lead the country out of the current crisis.”

Not far away sat Ghasem Naghad, 82, being pushed in a wheelchair by a relative. He, like Jalili, had lost his right leg in the Iran-Iraq war, but Naghad had also lost his son too.

He said he hoped the next president would do something about the high prices of basic goods, about inflation that had increased through Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two terms. He also hoped the next president would pay attention to men like him and their families.

“I’m going to vote for a young candidate who is ready to serve his country [Jalili]. May God guide him along the right path … hopefully he will serve … our martyrs and our people,” said Naghad.

In Narmak, a working class suburb in Tehran’s east, voters hoped a high turnout would get the message across to the next president that people are putting their faith in him.

“He should be committed to what he has promised practically, it shouldn’t be just words and he should execute what he has said,” explained Mahdi, a young baazar merchant.

“In the baazar I see the real situation of people – they have serious problems. Our current economic situation is terrible. The first priority of the next president should be housing for the youth, the other is unemployment. Many of our young people have graduated [from university] but are unemployed,” said Mahdi.

It was past 11pm at night when the crowds started leaving the voting stations, when the interior ministry closed polls after having extended voting hours three times.

For those who said it was the duty of Iranians to vote, they seem to be proven correct. People came out to vote in large numbers – Iranian media reported 80 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. And that’s one thing Iranians wanted – to have their say, for everyone to have a say and make a decision about their own futures.