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Iran's presidential candidates wind down campaigning


MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's presidential candidates are winding down their campaigning on the final day before Friday's voting with thousands taking to the streets in scenes reminiscent of the 1979 revolution.

Current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has used poverty to attract votes while his closest rival, former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has focused on corruption and the economy. Mousavi, 67, has openly criticized Ahmadinejad, calling him a "liar," and accusing him of misappropriating some $1 billion in oil revenues.

Two other candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaei, are also on Friday's ballot.

The winning candidate requires 50% of the vote.

According to a recent poll, carried out by the Washington-based public policy institutes Terror Free Tomorrow and the New American Foundation, some 34% support current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Mousavi, who has campaigned on a reformist ticket, garnering 14% and 27% undecided.

Mousavi has also focused on youth issues in an attempt to woo the some 6 million voters eligible to cast their ballots for the first time. The youth vote is seen as a crucial segment of the electorate in Iran with around 60% under 30.

In addition, Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, has also been active attending rallies with and without her husband, the first time a woman in Iran has been so openly visible in a presidential race, making her extremely popular among female voters.

Mousavi has pledged to remove the regime's strict Islamic moral codes enforced by the country's religious police.

"Once president, I will immediately end the activities of the 'Moral Police Patrol,'" said Mousavi.

Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow for Washington-based Heritage Foundation, told RIA Novosti that if Mousavi wins, his government would be "more pragmatic," adding that according to his sources "Ahmadinejad not only may win, but there may be serious tampering and fraud to ensure his victory."

"The more moderate regime [of Mousavi] may be a much better partner for the United States for the dialogue that Washington is offering to Iran," Cohen said. He pointed out that Mousavi's supporters are younger, more urban and better educated, and use the Internet, including social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Mousavi has not been active in politics for 20 years, after the position of prime minister was removed following the introduction of constitutional changes in 1989.

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