Iran votes amid economic crisis and political restrictions

Iranians cast their votes for a new parliament on Friday, in what is viewed as a critical test of the clerical establishment's legitimacy amid escalating economic distress and constraints on political and social freedoms.

Publication: 01.03.2024 - 15:54
Iran votes amid economic crisis and political restrictions
Abone Ol google-news

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, emphasizing voting as a religious obligation, was among the first to participate, urging a prompt turnout to "make friends happy and disappoint enemies."

This election marks the first gauge of public sentiment following the 2022-23 anti-government protests, the most severe political unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The government aims for a substantial voter turnout to mend its credibility, tarnished by the protests. However, projections indicate only about 41% of eligible voters will participate, a potential decline from the record low turnout of 42.5% in 2020.

Amid this backdrop, state TV showcased enthusiastic voters nationwide, while activists and opposition groups campaigned under hashtags like #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus on social media, critiquing the election's legitimacy. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi dubbed the election a "sham," reflecting the sentiment of those opposing the current regime.

The parliament, historically controlled by hardliners, has minimal influence on Iran's foreign policy and nuclear program, both dictated by Khamenei. With prominent moderates and conservatives abstaining and reformists criticizing the election as unfair, the contest primarily features hardliners and lesser-known conservatives.

The election unfolds amidst significant Middle Eastern tensions, including Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza and other Iran-backed groups' activities in the region. Khamenei accuses Iran's adversaries, typically referring to the US and Israel, of fostering voter despair. Concurrently, the election for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, responsible for selecting Khamenei's successor, takes place, adding to the election's significance.