Polling has closed in Iran’s local council elections in what is being seen as the first major test for the country’s president since he and his allies swept to power last year. Results are not expected to be released until Sunday. The outcome will reveal if the rivals of leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are regaining their popularity. Voting in Tehran should point the way. Ahmadinejad’s conservatives have strong support among the poor areas of the capital with a promise to redistribute the country’s oil wealth.
The president is a former mayor of Tehran and analysts claim he can judge the mood of the locals. After casting his vote he said he was sure the election would become another milestone for the country’s youth. “The future of Iran is in their hands,” he said.
The West and Iran’s neighbours will also be looking closely at the results. Any indication that the president’s popularity is waning will be welcomed by Washington due to concerns that the administration is building nuclear arms. While the poor may be behind the president, the country’s intelligentsia has recently been calling for a more liberal society. It even staged some student protests.
Also up for election has been the Assembly of Experts which in theory is the most powerful institution in the Islamic Republic. Iran’s leading cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the country’s 46.5 million voters to go out to vote. His position seems not to be under threat as the 86-seat assembly is expected to continue to be dominated by traditional conservatives.