Iranian election prediction

My dangerous terrorist(-sympathizing) cousin famously “called” January’s Israeli election for Yair Lapid well before polls closed. In honor of our long-standing good-natured best-cousin rivalry, it’s my turn to predict an election. And the only one I know of happening today is in Iran. So let’s do this.

In all honesty, until this morning, I had no idea Iran was heading to the polls. Sure, I knew they had elections scheduled at some future date, but I had no idea that date was today. Then again, last Friday, I forgot it was Friday until pretty late in the afternoon. So, you know. Maybe I should have known.

Anyway, I may not be the most qualified person to do this, and I certainly didn’t interview my best friend in Iran or anything like that, but I did read the Washington Post’s article about the election so that will have to do for now — and, to be fair, with six viable candidates (after “some leading reformists were barred from running and other candidates dropped out”), it’s anybody’s guess who will succeed our good friend Mahmoud.

Might as well be mine.

Without further ado, here are the contenders:

Iranians are choosing from among six presidential contenders, including nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, widely seen as the most hard-line ideologically; Hassan Rouhani, a cleric and relative moderate who pledged to create a new Ministry of Women if elected; Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf; former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati; Mohsen Rezaei, longtime commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard; and Mohammad Gharazi, a former head of the ministry of Post, Telegraph and Communications.

And with widespread interest in an election that is thought to be wide open, Iranians are turning out in huge numbers to cast their ballots:

A push by Iranian authorities for widespread voter participation appeared to have been successful Friday, as a steady flow of traffic at polling stations prompted officials to extend voting hours into the evening.

Iran’s Interior Ministry announced that the polls would remain open beyond the customary 6 p.m. ending point. With temperatures reaching 95 degrees, some Iranians said they would wait until after sundown to cast their ballots.

This decision struck me as curious — I live in a democracy where election officials generally fight to curtail voting hours — and unexpectedly open for a country that famously suffered from a disputed election the last time around. [I think the winner of that election turned out to Twitter.]

But then it occurred to me that there’s another good reason Iranian election officials aren’t too concerned about letting everybody cast their ballots. It doesn’t make a difference when voting comes to a close — Let them cast votes! Much more important is how it starts:

Voting got underway early with what is arguably Iran’s most influential vote, that of its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei cast his ballot in a brief early morning appearance at a mosque inside his heavily secured central Tehran compound, offering no hints about which candidate he hopes will succeed controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Until now I haven’t told anyone who I voted for. Not even the people closest to me. Not my family and not my children. They are not aware who I voted for,” Khamenei said.

So nobody knows who the Ayatollah voted for — not the people close to him, not his family, and not his children [a curious distinction] — but something tells me the whole world’s about to find out very soon.

(The person he voted for is also going to be the winner, is what I’m saying.)

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