Senior Iranian Shiite clerics have issued calls for people to vote in Friday’s presidential election after several opinion surveys showed far less than 50 percent of the electorate inclined to cast ballots.

Ayatollha Makarem Shirazi issued a statement in the religious city of Qom Sunday saying that a low turnout can inflict “Serious irreparable damage” to the country and voting is a heavenly duty,” and a guarantee for “the esteem and independence” of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The ruling regime in Iran has always held turnout as a measure of its legitimacy, telling critics that if people vote in large numbers, it means they consider the Islamic Republic as the legitimate form of government for their country.

Economic hardship and violent crackdowns on protesters and dissidents in the last four years have apparently made many voters disillusioned. A poll conducted by Iran International in early May showed just 27 percent of voters ready to vote on June 18. Subsequent surveys have also confirmed a low turnout, at a maximum of 40 percent.

On June 4, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a televised speech urged the people to vote, saying to stay away “is the will of the enemies.” But his call hardly moved the needle in favor of mass-participation.

Also on Sunday, Ayatollah Noori Hamedani in a statement said, “Elections in their current form in the Islamic Republic is a blessing of the Islamic revolution.” He urged voters that casting a ballot is both required by Sharia and by rationality.

Source » iranintl