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Neck and neck competition as Iranian election reaches climax - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Female supporters of Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili hold posters depicting Jalili and wave Iranian flags during an election campaign rally in Tehran, Iran, 12 June 2013 (EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH)

Female supporters of Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili hold posters depicting Jalili and wave Iranian flags during an election campaign rally in Tehran, Iran on June 12, 2013 (EPA/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Unofficial opinion polls show only narrow margins between the front-runners for Iran’s presidential poll on June 14, Iranian media reported on Wednesday, leaving the leading candidates neck and neck with two days to go.

According to the news website Alef, which is generally associated with the conservative “principalist” movement, a poll of voting intentions conducted by a state-owned nationwide media agency shows the pragmatic principalist candidate and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf in the lead with 30%, followed by moderate centrist Hassan Rouhani at 24%.

Hardliner Saeed Jalili came third with 12%, and moderate conservative Ali Akbar Velayati is trailing with 7.8%.

Rouhani’s popularity has reportedly risen sharply since both former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Seyed Mohammad Khatami endorsed him earlier this week.

Another poll conducted by an independent agency gives different figures, but a similar order of preference for the candidates. This poll put Qalibaf in the lead with 21.5%, with Rouhani at 19% and Jalili bringing up the rear at 12.5%

Both polls were taken on Saturday, one day after the last TV debate. The latest reports, which remain unconfirmed, said that Rouhani has been closing the gap on a daily basis, with some sources claiming that Rouhani had overtaken Qalibaf by the beginning of Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, attempted to bolster the legitimacy of Friday’s poll, stating that no one is aware of the fate of the election and that it will be all down to the people to participate.

Ayatollah Khamenei urged all Iranians to attend polling stations on Friday, and urged them to “elect a president with [a] high turnout so he can firmly stand against the illegitimate demands of foreigners.”

“For too long, foreign propaganda outlets have screamed that there is no freedom in Iran. Now they can see otherwise, as all candidates could express their opinions,” he added.

In another development, Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the Expediency Council, has accused a high-profile security official of intervening in the vetting process that saw him disqualified from the election.

In a meeting with a group of student activists from Tehran and Qom, Rafsanjani criticized the role of the official, said to be Heydar Moslehi, Iran’s intelligence minister, in the deliberations by Iran’s Guardian Council, which vets all presidential and parliamentary candidates.

Rafsanjani said that the official tried to convince the members of Guardian Council to change their minds, “based on the assessment that I will win overwhelmingly.”

“‘If Hashemi could run, he would win and all of our efforts over the last seven or eight years would be gone,’” the unnamed official was quoted as saying by the former president.