Iran’s voters are going to the polls in what is being seen as the first major electoral test for the country’s president since he and his allies swept to power last year. While the vote is mainly for city and rural councils, the outcome will reveal if the rivals of leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are regaining their popularity. Results from the capital, Tehran, should point the way . Ahmadinejad’s conservatives have strong support among the poorer areas of the city with promises to redistribute the country’s oil wealth. However, within Tehran’s intelligentsia, calls for a more liberal society have recently risen with students protesting against the leader.
Any indication that Ahmadinejad’s popularity is waning will be welcomed by the West which fears Iran is building nuclear arms. Members of the Assembly of Experts, which in theory is the most powerful institution in the Islamic Republic, are also up for election. Iran’s leading cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged the country’s 46.5 million voters to do their revolutionary duty and come out to cast their ballots. His position seems not to be under threat as the 86 seat assembly is expected to continue to be dominated by traditional conservative clerics.