“I will vote,” says Arash, a university student who has just turned 18. “I don’t know any of the real candidates yet but I will vote, because I can. “We have to try to make changes,” he explains amid a birthday party in the middle-class Tehran neighbourhood of Gisha. “By not doing anything, nothing will happen.” He says those who fail to act are “living their lives like a herd of sheep by putting their fate in the hands of others. “For me, though, this is a chance to practise my democratic rights.” For many Iranians who have become eligible to vote since the last presidential election, in 2009, the awakening of political consciousness came with the emergence of the opposition Green Movement and its violent suppression over the months that followed.
“I don’t know who is actually running since no one knows who’ll be on the final list vetted by the Guardian Council,” Arash adds. In 2009, 475 Iranians registered to run for president. Only four were approved as candidates after vetting by the council of religious and legal experts. This year, there are 686 would-be chief executives.
Arash say he is interested to find out who among them will be the “real” candidates; some of his friends at the party feel differently. Omid, who will turn 18 just before the ballot, on 14 June, is very pessimistic about the whole process.
“I won’t vote in these elections,” he says. “I don’t know any of the people who are running, and from what I have seen over the last four years, and all of the hardships that my parents have experienced since the last election, I don’t think that my vote even counts.”
Amir, 23, says: “I have one vote, and I will use it.” He is sporting a bohemian look, with a long, curly ponytail and large spectacles. “I guess each person has a duty toward the society, wherever one lives. We live together in this city, in this province, in this country, and we have to get involved. I will vote not only in the presidential election but in the municipal and regional elections as well.”
In an apparent move to boost participation in the presidential poll, the regional elections will be held for the first time on the same day.