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News Analysis: Iran's presidential election likely to advance into second round


08:37, June 14, 2013

TEHRAN, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Iran's presidential election, slated for Friday, is likely to extend into a second round as none of the candidates seem able to garner over 50 percent of the votes, a threshold for them to win out in the first round.

Among the hopefuls, Hassan Rouhani, a candidate of both the reformists and the moderates, is to challenge Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Tehran's Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf and former foreign minister Ali-Akbar Velayati in the race overwhelmed by uncertainty.

"The chance of the election going into a second round is very high," Sadeq Zibakalam, a professor of political science from Tehran University, told Xinhua on Thursday. "On one hand, Rouhani is gathering more and more support; on the other hand, the conservatives are divided."

On Tuesday, after former presidents, reformist Mohammad Khatami and moderate Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, endorsed Rouhani for the next president, they managed to attract more support for him.

Moreover, despite calls by the major conservative groups for unity and coalition, Rouhani's conservative rivals remained decisive on "pushing to the last moment" on their individual bid.

Velayati was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Wednesday "he will persistently remain on the campaign track to the end."

Also, Jalili's campaign manager Ali Bagheri said that he would by no means quit his bid, according to semi-official Fars news agency's report. The same words were echoed by other candidates as well.

The observers said there are two reasons behind the conservatives' stubbornness and division. First, they believe that they are competent ideologically and practically. Second, they have "principled differences" over the strategic policies of the Islamic republic despite similarities in many cases.

In the third and last round of the presidential debates held by Iran's State IRIB TV on Friday, Jalili and Velayati's verbal disputes about the diplomacy over the country's controversial nuclear issue almost overshadowed others' discussions.

While Jalili backed the diplomacy of "resistance," Velayati protested that Jalili's diplomacy was "flawed."

The election this year is multi-sided since reformists, independents and conservatives have received ample supports from their fans and thus the future presidency looks likely to be decided in the first round, said Zibakalam.

According to a survey of the Mehr Center for Opinion Polling published on Tuesday, Qalibaf now ranks on the top with 17.8 percent of the votes, followed by Rouhani and Jalili with 14.6 and 9.8 percent respectively. Mohsen Rezaei with 7.8 percent and Velayati with 6.5 percent are the last among the five hopefuls.

Zibakalam, however, said "many who want to vote for Qalibaf can vote for Rouhani... There is no reason why many potential reformist voters (who want a change) would go for Qalibaf."

He also puts Jalili and Velayati ahead of Qalibaf, saying potential conservative voters won't vote for Qalibaf because they have their own candidates. "If they are hard-liners, they could vote for Jalili and if they are moderate conservatives, they would vote for Velayati. I think."

"It appears that Velayati has more support than Jalili," he continued, pointing out that Velayati has been supported by many influential clerics in the past days.

The public and experts' split opinions over Qalibaf can be seen as an indication of uncertainty and instability in Iran's election scene.

In the meantime, the professor draws on the significant number of the undecided voters, saying "undecided voters belong very much to the reformist camp. The more of them decide to vote, the more reformist voters there would be."

The opinion poll also showed that undecided voters account for 30.5 percent, or almost 15.4 million, of the country's eligible voters.

According to Iran's Interior Ministry, nearly 50.5 million eligible Iranians will vote for the candidates who have been qualified by Iran's Guardian Council of Constitution for the presidential election on Friday.

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