Given Australia's unofficial nine-month long election campaign, it is worth noting that, six weeks out from the Iranian presidential election, the names of the candidates are not even known yet.
Registration of presidential candidates was conducted between 9-11 May, at which point the Guardians Council began vetting candidates. The announcement of those who have been approved will be made on 23 May, and the election begins on 14 June.
The Iranian Government is exceptionally keen to ensure that there should be no repeat of the controversy and violence that followed the running of the 2009 election, and until yesterday there appeared little to stimulate voter interest. As this article illustrates, there was little among the nominees that gave cause to people looking for changes of direction in political, economic or social policy.
As befits a notoriously opaque system, that all changed at the last minute as two high profile candidates, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie (a close confidante of the President Ahmadinejad), registered their candidacies.
The fact that these candidates have registered in such dramatic fashion makes for increased interest in the race, but there is no guarantee they will appear on the final ballot. The Supreme Leader wields significant influence over the candidacies, and the the ability of these two men to survive the vetting of the Council of Guardians is anything but assured. Only ten out of 800 hopefuls survived the Council's deliberations in 2001; in 2005 it was six out of more than 1000.
The economy is the highest priority for most Iranians, and the public's belief as to whether any of the final candidates can offer some relief in this area will ultimately determine the turnout. The backroom manoeuvrings and positioning of putative candidates is likely to dominate the period until the confirmation of candidates and the three-week election campaign. And although I've already pointed out how ruthless the vetting process is, I would love to see this candidate get onto the ballot paper. His Saturday Night Fever-like dress sense would certainly do wonders for Iran's rather dour international image.
Photo by Flickr user BBC World Service.