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Boycotts Kick Off, Campaigning and Blunders Continue In Iran Election

A group of students at the University of Isfahan have boycotted Iran’s controversial June 18 presidential election, says a statement posted on the Telegram channel of "Progressive Students" of the university.

This is probably the first open announcement of a boycott made by a specific group in Iran after the non-elected Guardian Council limited voters' choice by disqualifying three important candidates. A newspaper close to the core of the regime wrote that the result of the election is more or less known a month before people go to the polls on June 18.

The statement issued May 27, said "the people are fed up with the economic hardships" and the political situation in which participation is impossible unless activists "risk their life and freedom."

Several exiled groups have also announced their boycott of the poll, and Freedom Movement of Iran, a 60-year-old political party that first supported the Islamic Republic, has announced it will not take part in the vote.

The Iranian media are surprised that a few weeks before the election very little if any campaigning is going on, possibly because there is no real competition among the seven candidates five of whom come from the same camp and the other two are not officially backed by any political group.

Although the umbrella organization of Iran's reformists, as well as individual reformist parties have said they do not have any candidate in the election, anecdotal accounts from Tehran say that some of the key elements in the right of center Executives of Construction Party are trying to convince other party members as well as like-minded people in the reformist camp to rally behind former Central Bank Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati, who happens to be one of the founders of the party.

Hemmati took part in a highly popular Clubhouse conversation Saturday night, with well over 10,000 participants, when several political figures and journalists spoke in his favor. During the conversation, Hemmati proved to be a good speaker and a man with ideas about politics and the state of the economy. However, he could not answer tough questions about human rights posed by activists.   

In the meantime, two statements by hardliner candidate, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, stirred controversy about his track record in the areas of media freedom. First, he said during an interview with the state-run Radio Javan that he was surprised to hear that Twitter was banned in Iran and Instagram was not. Twitter has been blocked by Iran’s internet censors since 2009.

In a second statement during a speech, in attempt to whitewash his error, Jalili said: "There is no justification for the filtering of Twitter.”

He, like many Iranian officials, including those who strongly support the censorship of the internet has been using both Twitter and Instagram, obviously using illegal anti-censorship software.

In another development about social media, election frontrunner Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi) appointed former Communication Minister Reza Taghipour, nicknamed by Iranian netizens as the enemy of the Internet, as his campaign manager on and for social media. Taghipour's nomination brought a flood of criticism against Raeesi even from among his staunch supporters. Taghipour was behind many of the bans and restrictions imposed on social media during the past decade. He said in 2011: "The internet is dangerous for human societies."

Meanwhile, disqualified candidate Saeed Mohammad has expressed support for Raeesi and Raeesi's campaign has posted the two men's picture together in a bid to garner support from among Mohammad's fans.

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