Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 37,551

A week before presidential elections, Iranians are divided over whether the elections will solve pressing problems

TEHRAN: With presidential elections just a week away, Iranians are divided over whether the vote will resolve pressing economic issues and mandatory hijab laws.
Iranians go to the polls on June 28 to choose from six candidates – five conservatives and a relative reformist – to succeed Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash last month.
The election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions and enforcement of mandatory headscarves for women.
“They promise change, but they don’t do much,” said Hamid Habibi, a 54-year-old shop owner in Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazaar.
“I watched the debates and the campaigns; they speak beautifully, but they need to back up their words with actions,” he said.
Despite his skepticism, Habibi plans to vote next week.
The candidates held two debates, each pledging to address financial issues affecting the country’s 85 million residents.
“The economic situation is getting worse every day and I don’t expect any improvement,” said Fariba, 30, who runs an online store.
“No matter who wins, our lives will not change,” she said.

Others, like 57-year-old baker Taghi Dodangeh, remain hopeful.
“Change is certain,” he said, calling voting a religious duty and a national duty.
However, the 61-year-old housewife Jowzi expressed doubts especially about the line-up of candidates.
“There are almost no differences between the six,” she said. “You can’t say that any of them belong to another group.”
Iran’s Guardian Council approved six candidates after disqualifying most moderates and reformists.
Leading candidates include conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, ultra-conservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the only reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian.
Keshvar, a 53-year-old mother, intends to vote for the candidate with the most robust economic plan.
“Young people are struggling with economic hardship,” she said.
“Raisi tried but on the ground things didn’t change much for the general public and they were unhappy.”
In the 2021 elections that brought Raisi to power, many voters stayed away, resulting in a turnout of just under 49 percent, the lowest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for a high voter turnout.
Still, 26-year-old businessman Mahdi Zeinali said he would only vote if the candidate proved to be “the right person.”
The election comes at a turbulent time as the Gaza war rages between Iran’s rival Israel and the Tehran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, along with continuing diplomatic tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
Mandatory hijab laws remain controversial, particularly since mass protests sparked by the 2022 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, was detained for allegedly violating Iran’s dress code, which requires women to cover their heads and necks and wear modest clothing in public.
Despite increased enforcement, many women, especially in Tehran, violate the dress code.
Fariba expressed concern that after the election, “things will go back to where they were” and young women will not be able to take off their headscarves.
Jowzi, an undecided voter who wears the veil, sees it as a “personal” choice and opposes state interference.
“It doesn’t matter who becomes president,” she said.
“What matters is what they actually do. It doesn’t matter to me if they have a turban or not. They must behave humanely.”

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