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Iranian voter views suggest wide open race

Published: Updated:

On the hardscrabble streets in south Tehran, a group of paramilitary volunteers looks to hard-line presidential candidate Saeed Jalili – Iran’s top nuclear negotiator - as the best defender of the Islamic system. On the other end of Tehran’s social ladder, a university professor in a marble-trimmed apartment building plans to boycott next week's election because he rejects all the candidates allowed on the ballot.

A confusing mix of shifting political views, apathy and indecision is brewing across Iran’s capital. Taken together, it suggests the June 14 race to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could be closer and more complex than reflected by the size of rallies or the depth of ties to the all-powerful theocracy - both hallmarks of Jalili’s bid that have earned him an aura of front-runner.

Instead, rivals such as Tehran Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf and Jalili’s predecessor as nuclear envoy, Hasan Rowhani, are increasingly mentioned by voters wanting fewer West-bashing diatribes and more attention to Iran’s sinking economy and its nuclear impasse with the West, according to dozens of interviews across Tehran by The Associated Press.

Many also expressed dismay over the disqualification of centrist ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, which dashed the hopes of reformist groups. Election overseers barred him from running, along with Ahmadinejad’s protégé Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.