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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 16:42 GMT
Iran's first-time voters split
By Pam O'Toole
BBC Iran analyst

Reformist supporters hand out leaflets in Tehran
Reformists may do badly in the vote, partly due to disqualifications

With more than 60% of the Iranian population under the age of 30, young people will have a big influence on the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Even though the minimum voting age was raised this year from 15 to 18, a lot of people will be voting for the first time.

Iran's clerical establishment has been urging people to turn out in large numbers on Friday to vote, regarding a large turnout as an endorsement of the country's Islamic system of government.

Some first-time voters, including a young woman called Maryam, appear to be heeding their leaders' calls.

Everyone says it's our duty so I'll have to do my part if I get the time. I'll vote for the person with the shortest name which is the easiest to write, because I don't know all the candidates
Rad

"I'm definitely going to take part. And the reason is because I see it as my obligation. I sense, at this moment, the world's eyes are upon the Iranian ballot box and I think good participation reflects well on our society," Maryam said.

A young man called Rad was also inclined to vote.

"Everyone says it's our duty so I'll have to do my part if I get the time," he says.

"I'll vote for the person with the shortest name which is the easiest to write, because I don't know all the candidates."

Disqualifications

But other first-time voters were less enthusiastic.

Some, like Hamed, feel the disqualification of around a third of candidates, including many reformists, by the unelected Guardian Council means the next parliament is bound to be dominated by conservatives.

"As a freedom-loving individual who wants a democratic government, I don't like to take part in this election, because I feel my vote will have no influence on the outcome," Hamed said.

"Because it's obvious, right now, who are going to be elected as members of parliament."

Another young Iranian man also cited the disqualification of candidates as a reason not to vote.

"I'm not going to take part because the candidates who I feel would have been positive for this society have been disqualified. This government has allowed only those candidates who I feel will be negative for this society," the young man said.

Young people in Iran face a number of specific challenges.

Youth unemployment is estimated to be around 25%.

Some youngsters are frustrated by the social restrictions imposed on them by the country's Islamic government.

They are being told it is their duty to vote. But some clearly feel apathetic, fearing these elections will bring nothing positive in the way of change.

[Interviews by the BBC Persian Service]





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