RAY SUAREZ: First tonight, Iran's run-off presidential election. We have a report from Farnaz Fassihi of the Wall Street Journal. I talked with her by phone a few minutes ago.
RAY SUAREZ: Farnaz Fassihi, welcome. The polls have only been closed a few hours. Are there any preliminary returns in the national elections?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: The wires are reporting some preliminary results from the interior ministry suggesting that Mr. (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad is leading by a wide margin although these are very preliminary and they can change once all the votes are counted, as we saw last week with the runners up.
RAY SUAREZ: In your reporting, what were you able to determine about the size of the turnout?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: In going around Tehran, basically to most of the neighborhoods around the city, the turnout was extensive. There were a lot of people out; they extended the polling hours several times for several hours extra, and I can tell you that most people I interviewed and I spoke to were in favor of Mr. Ahmadinejad.
RAY SUAREZ: Do you know if there was also high turnout in the rural areas and other provincial cities?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: I think even probably even larger turnouts in provincial cities. Last week around, Tehran had the lowest turnout of 37 percent. So if we see a large turnout in Tehran, it usually suggests that there's even a greater turnout in rural areas and the provinces.
RAY SUAREZ: What are the authorities saying about how long it will take to certify the results?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: They are saying that they will certify it by noon Tehran Time, which is in several -- it's 2 AM right now. So by noon Saturday morning they should have it counted and announce; that's what the Interior Ministry is announcing.
RAY SUAREZ: Did two contenders in this race, (Ali Akbar Hashemi) Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad, focus their campaigns on specific parts of the electorate, hoping to win their support? And which were they?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: They absolutely did and it will be very interesting to see how they will satisfy that electorate once they -- either one comes into office. Mr. Rafsanjani really pegs himself as a reformist and a moderate and tried to woo the votes of the young people, of the intellectuals, sort of the technocrats and businessman while Ahmadinejad presented himself as a populist and went for the votes of the poor, of the working class and of the paramilitary forces. And either one that comes to office will be indebted to those constituents so they will have to -- it will be interesting to see what kind of politics they'll adopt.
RAY SUAREZ: Apart from the politics of style and symbolism, you mentioned that you were in the country last week for the first round. What issues are uppermost on the minds of Iranian voters?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: Most of the Iranian voters, when you talk to them, they want to see boosts in the economy. They want to see -- the oil price is highest it's ever been. They want to see that tangible change in their lives. They want to be able to buy homes. They want to be able to insist the young people get married. So it's mostly economy, and it's social freedom.
RAY SUAREZ: And in the case of the two candidates today, Rafsanjani and Amadinejad, how do they address those concerns?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: You know, the two candidates have very different policies in almost every regard, whether domestically or foreign policy. As for domestically, economically, Mr. Rafsanjani talks about privatizing the economy and opening it for foreign investment and that's how he promises to make the lives of Iranians better, and he's promised reform and more social freedom.
However, Mr. Ahmadinejad has talked about reviving the old revolutionary ideals of making the country more Islamic and the economic policies are very -- almost communist style, sharing of wealth between the wealthy, the state, and the public. So, it's very different.
RAY SUAREZ: Here in the United States, a lot of attention has been focused on Iran's nuclear program. What did the two candidates have to say about that?
FARNAZ FASSIHI: Both of the candidates have said that Iran must reserve its right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. This is the state's policy and none of the presidential candidates have said anything otherwise.
However, Mr. Rafsanjani has talked greatly about the need to improve Iran's relations with the West, including the United States and I -- you know, even in interviews he said that he wants to -- that Iran reserves the right to nuclear power providing that it gains the trust of the West.
Mr. Ahmadinejad takes a much harder stance; he told the parliament last week that Iranian negotiators are weak and, in fact, Iran should end the negotiations and pursue its right to nuclear energy.
RAY SUAREZ: Thanks for being with us.
FARNAZ FASSIHI: Thank you.