As mother requested; there was my vote.

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"So I put the name of the candidate in this box and then either a number one, two, three or four in the other box", I asked the polling station staff who nodded and agreed. I asked again, in another way, just to be sure. "So what if I can't write in Farsi?", I further asked, "then your friend can write for you". I could have written the name of my candidate of choice myself, but I wasn't wishing to leave anything to chance, worried at the possibility that my vote would be void with the slightest spelling error. It had been discussed before hand by many that one should try to vote in polling stations other than a mosques, and to also take one's own pen. To check this rumour, I used the mosque-supplied pen to write a note saying, 'I didn't vote with this pen', and with the second supplied pen, 'I also didn't vote with this one'. That note still reads the same to this day.

"Why were you taking pictures just then?" came a voice from behind me as I was preparing to leave, "for my dear mother; you know what parents are like", I said warmly before continuing in a mock-mother voice, "dear son, make sure you vote, I want to know you voted OK". We all laughed and and slid away while I could. I'd not only photographed my completed ballot but had also photographed the instructions on how to vote as we stood in line at the door of the mosque.

The procedures for voting were as I remember; hand them my birth certificate, ink my finger up, stamp it, fill out the ballots then fold and post in the plastic containers. On this occasion, not only were we able to vote in the presidential elections but also the Expediency Council elections, so to be absolutely sure I'd covered everything, I filled out my presidential candidate of choice on both ballots. "So the green one goes here and the blue one here?", I asked the observer as I pointed to the two plastic containers. He agreed, but I asked one more time in a different way; I'd regret it if I didn't.

With so much post-election activity you'd be right in wondering why I'm returning back to the vote day itself and even to a moment just before the previous blog entry below. But I'm stuck here and still seeking answers. Fraud has been suggested by three of the four candidates regarding the vote (one of which later withdrew his complaint) and although I am still quite suspicious of the election results and feel fraud might have taken place. I don't necessarily feel that any major fraud had taken place throughout the polling stations, but am rather concerned that the potential for fraud was systemically introduced. I regularly bring this up and still make inquiries regarding my concerns but still I've no answers. Yet to my surprise, people seem confused as to why I'm stuck at this point. It's like they've no faith that the vote and the result have anything to do with one another, by which I mean, suspicion of stuffed ballot boxes or other forms of manipulation still wouldn't relate to the final result.

So back to vote-day.

"So David, who'd you vote for?", asked a friend over the phone jokingly, knowing that I'd continue with my British sensibilities and not reveal this information. "I voted for Iran", I joked in response, "so how about yourself, did you do your democratic duty?", I asked. "Yes, I put 77; Mousavi", responded my friend, "wait a minute, what's the number 77 got to do with anything?", I quickly shot back. I explained how I put only a single digit and how I checked with officials – "you made a mistake", my friend told me. After a short silent pause between us I inquired, "what makes you think that you yourself didn't make a mistake ... so, might one of our votes be considered void; is the number part essential?". Still to this day I've not had an answer to question.

"but Ahmadinejad's code being 44 and Mousavi's – where I was at least – being 4 is weird"

Two years ago I voted in the parliamentary elections whereby I also had the opportunity to vote in the Expediency Council elections. This form did not require names to be written, just simply an 'X' was required within one of twelve boxes. This form had all the markings that would indicate a computer would validate it: barcode and black blocks, no doubt for alignment purposes within a feed-machine of sorts. I've mentioned this curious difference to many I've discussed the vote-day with, confused as to why in a relatively illiterate state, a system needing hand writing would be used, especially where this previously wasn't the case. But more confusing is why a number code box existed; there were only four candidate, none of which shared similarities in names? And why the numbers 44, 55, 66 and 77? Maybe hand written names are less likely to lead to stuffed ballot boxes and the number would simply be back-up should the handwriting be illegible, "but Ahmadinejad's code being 44 and Mousavi's – where I was at least – being 4 is weird, especially as they are the two favoured contenders", I've continued to repeat.

As I say, I don't necessarily feel that critical fraud has taken place at the polling stations, although I feel the potential for it was there. Upon hearing the code overlap between the favoured contenders my worry was that any mention of a number four would be considered a vote for Ahmadinejad, regardless of the name sitting beside it. But this would involve large numbers to be implicated and could never be kept quiet. It was Stalin that said, "It's not the people who vote that count; it's the people who count the votes". I'd be tempted to revise it to: "...it's the person who announces the vote that counts".

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  • Hello David. I write to you from a United states class focusing on gender relations in the Middle East.

    It is very nice to see you have begun to blog again on this page. Was is difficult voting as someone from the UK? In the U.S. polling stations are worked by volunteers who are usually elderly and mostly women. How does iran differ? How does the UK differ? What is the biggest culture difference (i.e. dating/courting, women's employment vs mens, etc.)

    By Anonymous James, at 8:39 AM  

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