Iranians look for economic help from Friday's election
May 19, 1997
Web posted at: 12:05 p.m. EDT (1605 GMT)
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian voters will have the economy on
their minds Friday as they go to the polls to select a new
Rising prices and unemployment are the chief complaints among
Tehran's population, particularly the young.
"My son has graduated from university as a chemist and my
daughter is leaving high school," said a middle-aged mother.
"They cannot find work."
Four candidates are vying for the post currently held by
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who finishes the second of two
terms allotted by the Iranian constitution. Three of the four
come from Iran's ruling clerical establishment, although the
two leading candidates represent different wings.
Ultra-conservative parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri
is backed by supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
the Shiite clergy and the rich merchant class.
The so-called reformers, intellectuals, women and young
people back former culture minister Mohammed Khatami, who
also has the support of Rafsanjani and his lieutenants.
The victor is unlikely to change Iran's relations with
Western nations -- Khamenei has the last word on foreign
policy, said Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Khamenei
has said that the mere mention of improving relations with
the United States would be political suicide.
The moderate Khatami backs easing some of the strict Islamic
code that has been in effect since the Islamic revolution
toppled Iran's shah 18 years ago. His advocacy of easing
restrictions that govern everything from women's dress to
whether TV satellite dishes should be allowed has wide
Some Khatami supporters believe their candidate is more
likely to help with jobs and inflation, while Nateq-Nouri
supporters say the same about their candidate.
Just how much either candidate -- or one of the other two
candidates -- can actually do to change the high cost of
living remains to be seen, because Iran is in the middle of a
five-year economic plan that ends in 2000.
Correspondent Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.
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