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Iranian Leaders Rally for High Turnout in Upcoming Elections Amid Fears of Low Participation

By Nigar Bayramli February 29, 2024

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Iranian men put campaign posters on a wall during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. / Majid Asgaripour / WANA via Reuters

The Iranian Supreme Leader and President have urged the people to turn out in large numbers for the upcoming elections for the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, set to be held on March 1, amidst concerns of low turnout.

“A vibrant and strong participation by the Iranian nation in the elections would be a manifestation of national power, guarantee the national security, and disappoint the enemies who have their eyes on Iran,” Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said at a meeting with first-time voters and families of “martyrs” on February 28.

“Political growth and increasing the analytical power of the youth during the elections are invaluable, because they lead to gaining knowledge about the enemy and its methods and actions, and as a result, gaining knowledge about the ways to confront and neutralize the conspiracies of the ill-wishers,” he added.

According to the latest polls, approximately 38.5% of eligible voters (61,172,298 million) are certain to vote in the forthcoming Iranian elections, while an additional 7.6% indicated a high probability of participating. In contrast, only 42.57% of eligible voters participated in the 2020 parliamentary polls, with 48.8% casting ballots in the 2021 presidential elections, a significant decline from the 85% turnout witnessed in 2009.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on February 28, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed hope that through extensive participation in elections, “the people would once again discourage the enemies of the system and double the hopes of the supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Elections are overseen by government representatives in the Ministry of Interior and supervised by the Guardian Council. Despite approximately 25,000 individuals announcing their candidacy for the parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council rejected around 10,000 potential candidates. Candidates critical of the government have been systematically barred from running, resulting in the absence of most reformist political parties from the elections.

Iranian clerics have been actively encouraging people to vote, seeking to instill a sense of duty and resilience among Iranians amidst the conflict in Gaza. However, doubts and opposition are also growing as the election date approaches. Election banners have recently been set ablaze in the Iranian southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

The severe repression of protests that began in September 2022, along with constant surveillance fueled by the enforcement of hijab laws and internet censorship, has reportedly further exacerbated public dissatisfaction.

Approximately 15,000 candidates are vying for the 290-seat parliamentary election (Islamic Consultative Assembly), while 144 candidates are running for the 88 seats of the Assembly of Experts, which holds the power to appoint the Supreme Leader, the highest political authority in Iran.