Yelena Dunaeva: "There won't be a second round of Iranian elections, but there will be unpredictable"

Presidential elections will be held in Iran tomorrow. Four candidates out of six have reached the final stage of the race: two key candidates - moderate liberal and current president, Hassan Rouhani, and conservative, Grand Imam of Imam Reza shrine, Ebrahim Raisi, as well as Mostafa Hashemitaba and Mostafa Mir-Salim.Senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, candidate of historical sciences, Yelena Dunaeva, discussed final balance of powers and chances of each candidate in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

- Can Hassan Rouhani win in the first round?

- There's no doubt that the elections will last only one round, because Mostafa Mir-Salim and Mostafa Hashemitaba won't be able to gain more than 3-4%. The main fight will take place between Rouhani and Raisi. Right now there's a certain parity in Iran, and the outcome of these elections will be mainly decided by turnout. The thing is that conservatives, in other words, traditional population, usually take active part in the election campaign, while the electorate of pro-reformist direction never shows high turnout rates. So far 71-72% have stated their desire to go to the polls, and the campaign is much more lively in the past few days. If turnout exceeds 70%, then we can talk about Rouhani's victory. If there won't be a high turnout, then it's possible that Raisi will receive more votes, because he's supported by many residents from provincial regions.

- Can opinion polls reflect the actual balance of powers? For example, right now Rouhani's support reaches 40%.

- For the past 20 years, since 1997, no one could predict the result of any elections in Iran. Opinion polls don't help: they are ideologically biased, so moderate and pro-reformist forces say Rouhani leads, while conservatives claim the same about Ebrahim Raisi. For example, today I read a poll, according to which Rouhani leads with 46%, but I also saw some polls saying he leads with 60%. Iranians themselves always say that public opinion polls can't be trusted. For the past 20 years I saw it several times, how representatives of scientific community and business say one thing before the elections, and next day the result is completely different.

- Why are Iranian elections so unpredictable?

- As far so opinion polls go, they're affected by technical constraints. Situation in big cities is one thing, but small towns and remote areas are completely different. Raisi is more popular there. Opinion polls are mostly conducted through the internet and phone, so they cover only certain part of the population. That's why they can't guarantee 100% result. In any case, we can say for sure that there's a fierce competition between Ruhani and Raisi. According to today's data from the Mejlis, which carried out a survey on the basis of conversations with deputies, representing districts, even a large province of Tehran is divided between two candidates, between Raisi and Rouhani.

- What agitation methods played the key role?

- First of all, televised debates, which had three rounds and ended a week ago. What we see over the past week is the result of TV debates. After all, social networks in Iran are limited, and the internet is not everywhere. That's why television is the main source of information, especially for remote areas.

- Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri withdrew their candidacies. What candidates will receive votes of people who planned to vote for them?

- Ghalibaf asks his supporters to support Raisi, because he also represents conservative block. However, political scientists and analysts immediately noted that not all of Ghalibaf's votes will go to Raisi, only about 70%, because Raisi, unlike Ghalibaf, adheres to more radical conservative line. Modern, urban people, who supported Ghalibaf, know him as a successful mayor of Tehran for the past 12 years, so they're likely to vote for Rouhani. 

As for Jahangiri, everything is clear. He had no specific line, he had no election headquarters, he just wanted to support and help Rouhani. Naturally, he immediately announced that he withdraws in Rouhani's favor. But Ghalibaf and Raisi had almost the same number of votes, about 20%, and the same can't be said about Jahangiri and Rouhani. Jahangiri had no more than 3%. In other words, he didn't give huge contribution to Rouhani's campaign.

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