Australian journalist Austin G Mackell writes from Iran a few days before the election:
Tehran’s prayer grounds are so big, they have a metro station at each end. Although today’s event was ostensibly secular, there was a distinctly religious fervour among the crowds massing for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s major rally as the country prepares for Friday’s elections.
Obsessed with seeing their idol as close as possible, hundreds upon hundreds of Ahmadinejad’s young male supporters swarmed into the area at the front of the stage designated for press and the disabled, forcing us to be led to the relative seclusion of a balcony above the stage.
I say ‘relative’, because the zeal of the Iranian reporters and photographers easily matched that of their compatriots in the tens of thousands (claims circulated by the Ahmadinejad camp of a million-strong turnout are way off the mark) below us. It was a scene more reminiscent of a rock concert than a political rally. Even Barack Obama would struggle to generate this kind of emotion.