Iranians are heading to the polls Friday to choose their next president. Fifty million people are eligible to vote, and 66,000 polling stations have been set up across the country.
The elections signal an end to the reign of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be stepping down after two terms in office.
Under Ahmadinejad unemployment grew from 10 percent to 30 percent. His policies caused an estimated 100 billion dollars in financial damages.
The three main candidates in Friday’s election are Saeed Jalili, Mohammed Baqer Ghalibaf, and Hassan Rowhani.
Jalili is currently Iran’s nuclear negotiator. He is a protégé of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and supports an uncompromising stance on Iran’s nuclear program. He has also pledged not to compromise “whatsoever” on Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Ghalibaf is currently the mayor of Tehran. He was formerly a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards. Politically, he is associated with the extremist Islamic Revolution.
Ghalibaf ran in the 2005 elections as well, and lost to Ahmadinejad.
Rowhani is a former nuclear negotiator. He has taken a somewhat more moderate stance than his fellow leading candidates, and supports better relations with the international community.
Rowhani’s more moderate stance has brought him support from many pro-reform Iranians. A telephone poll from the United States showed him getting 32.4% of the vote.
However, many young, pro-reform Iranians are reportedly planning to boycott the elections, which they say are a “bluff.” Boycotters have noted that whoever is chosen, Ayatollah Khamenei – who controls the Iranian army and Revolutionary Guards - will still hold control over Iran’s fate. Prime Minsiter Netanyahu said the same speaking on his trip to Poland this week.