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'I vote, therefore I am': Iran's vote boycott debate

Photo: Facebook screengrab

As Iranians prepare to pick a new president in elections on Friday, members of the opposition green movement are rallying on the web and urging young people to resist the temptation to boycott the poll.

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The overt excitement that preceded Iran’s 2009 presidential election is nowhere to be seen as the clock quickly ticks down to this year’s poll on June 14.

The streets of Tehran are calm, while universities, where members of the opposition green movement often rallied in the wake of the contested vote four years ago, have been pre-emptively shut.

FRANCE 24's citizen-jounalist network The Observers has launched a Farsi-language version of its wesbite.

Some of the repressed enthusiasm has leaked into the Internet, in particular social networks like Facebook.

According to Mohammad-Reza Yazdanpanah, an Iranian journalist close to political reformers, young people are weary of expressing themselves out in the open.

“The hard-line ideology of Said Jalili has scared them into silence,” Yazdanpanah said in reference to the conservative candidate who is unofficially backed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and considered the poll’s frontrunner.

The web has thus become the site of a lively debate over the merits of boycotting or participating in the election, with the green movement urging young people to cast a ballot.

The “I vote” campaign

The exchanges on the web are nevertheless full of subtle references that are likely to be lost on most observers.

Many young people who supported reformer candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi’s green movement in the 2009 election have replaced their profile pictures on social media websites with the words “I vote” over a green background.

The campaign, which journalist Negar Mortazavi claims started in Canada among political exiles, is in response to widespread fears of vote fraud and calls to boycott the election.

Many in the “I vote” camp have also added a vertical purple stripe to their logo (see below), in reference to the campaign colours of moderate-conservative candidate Hassan Rowhani. He has become the candidate of the green movement ever since Mohammad-Reza Aref, a former vice president, dropped out of the race to avoid splitting reform-minded votes.

The logo has quickly been appropriated by many, including those calling for a boycott.

The image below was slightly changed by one Facebook user to inform friends: “I [DO NOT] vote”

Using a similar font, another user expressed herself the following way: “I vote [THEREFORE I AM]” recalling the famous phrase by French philosopher René Descartes.

"F*ck it; let's vote again," another Facebook user wrote in green, suggesting his ballot would go to Rowhani.

On a more pessimistic note, another user posted the widely-used mantra of the 2009 protests: “Where is my vote?”, followed with the phrase “Where is my vote II coming soon” underneath.

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