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Last Updated: Friday, 17 June, 2005, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
'The streets are full of voters'
Two girls cast their vote in Tehran, Iran
Iranians have been casting their votes across the country
Iranians have been heading to the polls to cast their votes in what seems set to be one of their most closely contested elections in Iran for decades.

BBC News website reader Arash, a 23-year-old engineering graduate, told us about his experience at the polls with his family, who he voted for and why he believes it is time for change.


All of us walked north from mid-Tehran to a mosque in Abbas-Abad to cast our votes.

Some people, who said they wouldn't vote, voted on the day because they wanted the government stamp - which is put on your birth document when you vote.

Presidential candidate Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani casts his vote
Arash and his father choose Rafsanjani for his economic pledges
Some people were afraid they would be asked to show this stamp as proof of whether they had voted or not.

Some people also say the government does not give jobs to people with no stamps. But no-one really knows.

The television says many people outside Iran are voting in Japan, Malaysia and Arab countries, but I think many of these people have almost forgotten Iran and become closer to [US President] George W Bush instead.

It was relatively busy in Tehran, the streets were full of voters and we had to wait one hour to cast our vote. Fortunately there have been no major traffic accidents to stop us.

In Tehran there are always lots of people, although it is quieter for Friday holidays. People in the queues were having political discussions.

Second round?

Most people where I stood voted for [ex-President and frontrunner] Mr Rafsanjani. I voted for Mr Rafsanjani because he is very wise and powerful and he understands how to manage Iran's economic situation.

Main reformist candidate Mostafa Moin casts his vote
Arash's mother and sister vote for the reformist candidate Moin
He also understands that Iran needs to open its doors and have warm relations with the West. My father, a chemistry teacher at school, voted for Mr Rafsanjani for the same reasons.

However, my mother voted for [reformist candidate] Mostafa Moin because he was the education ministry head and my mother works there as a public servant.

My sister, a student, wanted to vote for [conservative candidate] Qalibaf because she thinks he is very handsome and because he is a pilot like Tom Cruise.

We managed to change her mind and finally she also voted for Mr Moin, although he is not handsome and not a pilot and not like Tom Cruise!

We all believe we will vote again soon in a second round. I think 50% of the vote for any of the candidates is not possible now.

We think Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Moin will end up fighting for it in a second round, God willing.

'Unwise' government

Right now, our life is very difficult and our money is very limited. I drive a taxi these days as I probably won't be able to get a job as an engineer.

We don't need outside people to take military action to get the mullahs out. One day, we will do it ourselves

We don't have enough powerful connections to arrange a job for me. I hope to earn enough money to put myself in a postgraduate course, to study for a better life for me and my family.

My parents have worked all their lives for me and my sister. They can only manage this far and I am afraid of them getting sick.

Our government is not a fair government. We don't like them at all, but we don't need another revolution or another war.

We lost all our wealth in protecting our country. Our government has not been wise; they have created a very bad image for Iran and Iranians which could not be farther from the truth.

But we believe we can change them. The mullahs will not last forever. They will also leave one day and then people like my sister and I will have to be wiser and change the unfair things to make life easier for everyone.

When I look at my parents, I can see the pain in their tired faces and then I tell myself, "work positively so your own children won't feel sorry for you when you get old".

We don't need outside people to take military action to get the mullahs out. One day, we will do it ourselves.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranians cast their votes



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