Vol. 5 Num 382 Fri. June 24, 2005  

Rafsanjani moves to thwart hardliners
Run-off vote today

Iranian regime veteran Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani faces the hardline Tehran mayor today in a presidential election that could hand the anti-Western right unchallenged power but whose outcome is too close to call.

Rafsanjani and his rival Mahmood Ahmadinejad pulled out all stops in the last hours of campaigning to sway undecided voters in an election that could decide the fate of cautious reforms and set the tone for future relations with the West.

Pragmatic conservative Rafsanj-ani will need to garner broad support from Iran's disenchanted reformists and a wider apathetic electorate if he is to thwart an Ahmadinejad victory, which would leave every state institution in the hands of hardliners.

Meanwhile, Rafsanjani made a last minute bid to steal Ahmad-inejad's core of low income supporters, promising to hand ordinary Iranians billions of dollars in stock options.

Pledging to "prioritise the poorer classes", he said that every month the unemployed will receive between 800,000 and 1.5 million rials (90-165 dollars), while women heads of households would be given 700,000 rials (80 dollars).

Superficially the candidates could not be more different: a wily 70-year-old cleric who has held top positions without a break since the 1979 revolution, against an ex-commando and municipal official who makes great play of his modest means.