AFP: Iran has been swift to accuse foreign enemies of seeking a low turnout in Friday’s presidential election, but in the sleepy city of Kashan officials appear to have encountered an even more potent foe — stifling heat. Right into the evening, roads in this city of 215,000 voters on the fringes of the desert were as empty as the polling stations. AFP
KASHAN, Iran – Iran has been swift to accuse foreign enemies of seeking a low turnout in Friday’s presidential election, but in the sleepy city of Kashan officials appear to have encountered an even more potent foe — stifling heat.
Right into the evening, roads in this city of 215,000 voters on the fringes of the desert were as empty as the polling stations. Searing temperatures made thinking — let alone voting — impossible.
“Massive participation in the elections is crucial,” proclaims a banner hung above the entrance to the Mohtasham Kashami school, of one of the 164 voting stations here.
But inside, 10 election officials were left without anything to do. “People have had enough to such an extent that you have to beg them to vote,” laments Ahmed Mahmoudi, 35, whose pharmacy is opposite the school.
The official in charge of the bureau, Mehdi Nasajian, says that while he could not disclose the “confidential” figures the school was “full” during the morning.
A soldier from the nearby city of Isfahan stands guard over another polling station in an office of the hardline Basij militia. “This is typical of people from Kashani. They are just going to turn up at the last minute,” he pants.
For the official in charge, Morteza Ghaneh ,”it’s just too hot”.
But the authorities are not worried. The city’s governor, Hossein Sistani, says that “the participation could be higher than forecast” despite “the negative propaganda against the election, whether from here or abroad.”
“With seven candidates, there is something for all tastes. It’s like in football — it is the last minutes that count,” he says.
One of his assistants explains the lack of activity by the locals’ reputation for indolence, coming from a city said to be founded by the Sultana Zubeida, wife of Haroun al-Rashid, the hero of the Arabian Nights.
“The siesta, is a custom typical of people in the desert. This evening will perhaps see the rush,” yawns Reza Safipour, correctly predicting that the authorities would extend the voting time.
There is more action a few kilometres (miles) outside the city, where many have come to the famous Fin gardens, designed by Abbas II, to escape the searing heat under the shady trees.
Many echo the governor’s relaxed predictions of a last minute rush. “We have time,” says Esmat Darabi, who still has not decided whether to abandon his comfy spot in the shade to head for the polls.
“It’s important to vote so the superpowers keep quiet,” opines Mohammad Reza Kazami, who is still nonetheless waiting for the last moment.
One woman, who gives her name as Souraya, intends to enjoy for as long as possible the garden conceived as a Persian vision of paradise. “I will not vote. It is gesture of defiance against those who never listen to us.”
The rush it is not, but by 6:30 pm some 20 voters are queuing outside the Saffali mosque, to the evident relief of the authorities.