Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Photo Finish In Iran

It's the last day of campaigning in Iran's presidential election. Four contenders are standing, but only two have a chance of winning, current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi.

It looks as though it's going to be very close, and the result matters for the rest of the world. Arguably the biggest byproduct of the Iraq War has been the rise of Iran's influence, as it pursues its nuclear programme and shows growing signs of meddling in the affairs of neighbours and near-neighbours from Afghanistan to Lebanon. Partly this confrontational stance has been driven by the hardline position of Mr Ahmadinejad, along with the clerics who still hold huge sway over the politics of Iran. The veteran Mr Mousavi on the other hand, would probably be more conciliatory were he to win the election. A man the west would find it easier to do business with, perhaps. Although having said that, those clerics would demand that Iran remains a tough, strong player on the regional and international scene. And they would also insist that the nuclear programme continues.

Although his rivals have accused Mr Ahmadinejad of isolating Iran with his extreme outbursts which make headlines over here from time to time, it might be a more familiar subject which leads to his defeat - the economy. He's under pressure for allegedly lying about the state of Iran's finances, as the country struggles because of high inflation and the lower price of oil. But if Friday's vote does indeed mean the end for Mr Ahmadinejad, western leaders won't care too much about what causes it.

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