Iranians got ready to cast their votes in the country’s presidential elections on Friday amidst a build-up of excitement. Iranians were especially excited over the country’s first-ever televised presidential debates that were broadcast in the nights leading up to the election.
During the televised debates, many taboos were broken. The candidates launched personal attacks against each other, and President Ahmadinejad accused former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the most influential figures in the Islamic Republic, of corruption.
The rival camps of the two favored candidates, incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, have filled cities with people shouting slogans in support of their candidates and denouncing the opponent.
Mousavi, an architect and painter, was prime minister in the early years of the Islamic Republic but has stayed away from the political scene for over 20 years.
Current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is said to be favored by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, won the election in 2005 with 62 percent of the votes in a second round.
Iranian elections have not generated this much interest since the charismatic reformist president Mohammad Khatami was elected as president with a wave of student and middle-class support in 1997.
The two other candidates in the presidential race include liberal cleric Mehdi Karoubi and former Revolutionary Guard leader Mohsen Rezaie.
If Ahmadinejad does not win this election, he would be the first president in 28 years not to win a second term in office.
Under Iran’s election rules, if no candidate gets more than half of the votes in Friday’s election, the presidential race will enter a second round with the top-two candidates.