Iran voters register protest on economy: Low poll turn-out sends warning to Rafsanjani

PRESIDENT Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was duly re-elected for a second four-year term on Friday, but the larger than expected protest vote, and the low turnout, were sharp reminders to him of the popular disenchantment with the government's economic mismanagement.

He won 63.1 per cent of the vote in a four-way contest, but his triumph was incomplete. According to the official count released by the Interior Ministry, only 56 per cent of the 29 million electorate voted, despite the appeal of the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that they had a religious duty to do so. Some 1.5 per cent cast blank ballots. Less than half the population voted for President Rafsanjani. By contrast in 1989, he won 94.5 per cent on a turnout of 70 per cent.

This time, some 24 per cent voted for the second candidate, the former labour minister Ahmad Tavakkoli. A conservative close to the bazaar, who supported the government policy in general of economic privatisation and liberalisaton - he wanted the process accelerated - he railed against official corruption at all levels, social injustice and economic mismanagement. This message struck a chord. In one province, Kurdistan, he actually won more votes than the incumbent. 'The election shows the population is unhappy,' he told Tehran radio.

Although the hardliners might take succour from Mr Rafsanjani's less than overwhelming success, they themselves were routed in parliamentary elections last year. And for the time being, no alternative policies have been aired. Furthermore the presidential election was in no sense a plebiscite on the Islamic Republic itself. Only candidates who could satisfy the clerical Council of Guardians that they were suitable and true sons of the Islamic revolution were allowed to stand - 124 out of 128 were rejected.

The President, the most pragmatic political figure in Iran, has four more years to put the economy on a sounder footing. Throughout the eight-year war with Iraq, the government managed to pay its bills, and avoid debt. It did however promise an improved standard of living once the war ended. After the ceasefire, the economic liberalisation programme was initiated, but it was so uncontrolled that the country has run up a sizeable foreign debt of up to pounds 13.25bn. The riyal has become a convertible currency, and its value has plummeted on exchanges to 1,675 against the dollar. The shops are full of imported goods but few can afford them.

The day after the elections, the government announced overnight price rises. Vegetable oil rose from 7,000 riyals to 11,000 riyals.

The re-election of President Rafsanjani is unlikely to change Iran's effort to end its international isolation. However, it faces an uphill struggle. Where the United States has failed to persuade its European friends to curb the export of high-technology equipment to Iran, which might have dual civilian and military use, those European countries are restricting exports because of concern over Iran's ability to pay its bills on time.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power