Middle East

Iran election: 'No optimism left'

Iranian women fill up their ballots before voting for Parliamentary elections in Tehran Friday, Feb. 18, 2000
Image caption Voters can choose from eight candidates on 14 June

As Iran's presidential election draws closer, many Iranians are still deciding who to vote for - or whether to vote at all.

Of the 680 candidates who registered to run in this year's election on 14 June, Iran's Guardian Council approved eight. Five of these are conservative close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. None are reformists.

In 2009, over 80% of those registered to vote did so. But the wave of enthusiasm that preceded the election came abruptly to an end for many Iranians when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad controversially won a second term.

Since then, optimism has dwindled and living standards have declined. The value of Iran's currency has plummeted, inflation is at its highest level in 18 years and people are struggling to find jobs. But is there hope for the future?

Here, Iranians share their views on the upcoming presidential election and explain what life is really like for them in Iran.


I personally feel so helpless. I was going to vote for [former President Ali Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani until he was disqualified. He would have been powerful and confident enough to challenge the supreme leader. He could have generated a wave of enthusiasm if he was allowed to stand as a candidate.

I won't vote now. In a recent speech by Khamenei, he announced that each single vote is a vote for the Islamic Republic. I do not want to legitimise this regime. The majority of opposition groups have reached an agreement to boycott this illegitimate election too.

Since the last election in 2009, there has been a growing and widespread dissatisfaction with the regime across Iranian society.

My husband and I have to work hard to be able to make ends meet. Everyday life has become tiring. It is frightening to bring up a child in this situation.

The buying power in Iran has decreased considerably over the past year. People are under unprecedented economic pressure and there are unemployment problems which have made people irritable.

Moral standards have also declined in Iran's society. Drug addiction is a very real problem here that needs addressing. Government statistics are not trustworthy. They conceal how bad the problems is.

Image caption There were mass protests in 2009 after Mr Ahmadinejad was re-elected

The government has misrepresented Iran and made the country isolated, poor and put it at the risk of a foreign attack. My fear is that the government is making another North Korea out of Iran. The leaders are even depriving us of the internet - the only window we had to the free world. Skype, Facebook and many websites are now not accessible in Iran.

In 2009, Iranian society was bursting with enthusiasm to vote. There is no visible interest now. There is no optimism left.


I am excited about voting, partly because this will be the first election I am eligible to vote in. I also want show my support for the establishment in the face of all the western opposition, even though I disagree with a lot of the things my country's regime has done in the past.

I will vote for Mr Qalibaf as he seems to have good plans. Listening to his speeches, his ideas are backed by economic principles based on efficiency and utilising strengths of the economy. People my age and the working-class educated people are rooting for Mr Qalibaf as he has clearer plans than the other candidates. Residents of Tehran particularly, believe in what he says and that he is a man of his word.

I don't think Iran is ready yet for a woman president. The clergy play a big role in Iranian politics, and they are all men. A woman president would find it hard getting anything done due to all the opposition from within and the many frictions that will exist.

Image caption Mr Qalibaf is seen as one of the frontrunners in the election

Everyday life in Iran is characterised by hustle. Tensions are high among people; fights and arguments break out easily on the streets as people no longer have patience due to all the instability. With everyday prices rising, people are concerned with putting food on the table for them and their families. The next president's priority should definitely be sorting the economy out.

My family and I still live pretty comfortably even though we still feel the effects of high inflation. It makes us budget better our expenses and try to cut down on unnecessary expenses. We try to use fewer private taxis.

I'm looking for work but there are limited opportunities for people my age. Some of my family live in Dubai and I get some help through foreign currency from them if I need it from time to time.


I will not be voting for any candidates in this fake election.

Unfortunately, Iran has a very dark future. Almost 34 years after the revolution, we have the worst dictatorship in our history. The next president will have no choice but to obey Khamenei's orders.

Everyday life in Iran is very difficult. Hyperinflation, unemployment, fear, corruption and rising crime are just a few of the problems in Iran.

Depression is another problem. A young friend of mine said he sleeps at night hoping he doesn't wake up.

My young brothers go to sleep at night with hungry stomachs. I cannot vote for a candidate in this Islamic dictatorship.


Ideally, I want to vote for a secular candidate, who has a compelling economic plan and smart approach to engaging our neighbours and economic superpowers. I want someone who can put Iran back on the world map in a positive light. But he or she is nowhere to be found.

In Iran, it's always a matter of making a choice between bad and worse candidates, not good and great candidates. Voting for one of them is better than not voting at all, so I will vote for Hasan Rouhani. His recent state TV interview was frank and intelligent. He also has strong relations with reformists and economic technocrats of Iran, albeit he himself is a religious cleric.

The gap between rich and poor is widening in Iran. The true middle class is disappearing. Some people can barely afford food or medicine. Many people's health is suffering because of sanctions. I see a lot of people looking for a way out - Australia, Canada, Scandinavia - anywhere but Iran.

Iran is so close, yet so far from its potential. I worry about the militarisation of Iran and economic decline which could polarise the Middle East into a Shia and Sunni battleground. My biggest fear at the moment is that no one is looking after the Iranian people's interests.

Unfortunately, this elections was hijacked before it even started. The press is not free to investigate, object or criticise. Civil society can't challenge the choice of candidates. Cynically speaking, Iran is a "handcuffed democracy".


There is nothing for me in Iran anymore. I won't be going back to vote.

Thankfully I have been lucky enough to have a solid educational background, allowing me to recently leave Iran and live and work in Australia. The real impact will be on the other 70 million people who have no choice but to stay in Iran.

In 2009 there was a lot of youth unemployment, particularly kids with degrees, a lot of youth boredom - but everyone was getting by. All my friends and family in Iran do not care about the elections now. No one really cares about politics anymore; people just want to forget about it and get on with their lives.

My cousins are stuck in Tehran. They are either unemployed or work in their parents' shop, despite most of them having university degrees.

The sanctions have hit people hard. My parents were planning to move to Australia because staying in Iran is affecting their health. The air pollution has become terrible because the government can't get spare parts for their oil refineries. My parents wanted to sell their home in Tehran and transfer their savings to Australia but with the various rounds of sanctions the worth of their life savings shrunk by 90% in one year.

You can't see the changes but you can feel them. In 2010, I think people thought things would get better. I think now people think everything will get worse.

Frankly, I hold both Iranian and western governments responsible for the deplorable state the Iranian people find themselves in.