Iran began voting for a new parliament on Friday, seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing frustration over economic woes and restrictions on political and social freedoms.
State TV said polling started at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT), and it is scheduled to last for 10 hours but can be extended.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran.
“Vote as soon as possible … today the eyes of Iran’s friends and ill-wishers are on the (election) results. Make friends happy and disappoint enemies,” Khamenei said.
The election is the first formal measure of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiraled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Iran’s rulers need a high turnout to repair their legitimacy, damaged after nationwide protests.
But with heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of the race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election”, the contest is between hardliners and conservatives who proclaim loyalty to Iran revolutionary ideals and official polls suggest only about 41% of Iranians will vote.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear on Saturday.
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize Iran.
“I’m seeking a change in regime, and I’ve decided not to vote as it would only serve to reinforce Iran’s hold,” said university student Mehran, 22, in the central city of Isfahan. “I want to live freely.”
Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women’s rights advocate, has called the election a “sham”.
Khamenei has accused the country’s “enemies” – a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel – of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
Tehran housewife Zahra, 26, said she would vote because “the world will understand that we support our leader (Khamenei) as he said voting is our duty”.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, which has scant impact on Iran’s foreign policy and nuclear row with the West, since these are determined by Khamenei.
Many pro-reform Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that large numbers of Iranians no longer think the ruling clerics capable of resolving an economic crisis caused by a mix of US sanctions reimposed after the failure to revive Iran’s nuclear deal, mismanagement and corruption.
The parliamentary election is twinned with a vote for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, an influential body that has the task of choosing the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.

Source » aawsat