‘Voting is meaningless’ in Iran’s ‘sham’ election, regime’s opponents say – as polls close

Polls have closed in Iran in an election that opponents of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime have dismissed as a “sham” in which voting “is meaningless”.
The parliamentary election is the first major test of the government standing with its citizens since large-scale protests over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in 2022, and the violent crackdown that followed, which saw mass detentions and even executions.

A high turnout will restore the reputation of Iran’s clerical rulers, which was badly damaged by the unrest – some ofthe worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Image: Voters fill out their ballots at a polling station in Tehran. Pic: AP
But they may be disappointed, as only around 41% of those eligible are set to take part, according to official figures, down even on the record low of 42.5% in the 2020 contest.
Reza, a 35-year-old teacher in the northern city of Sari, was adamant there was no point in casting his ballot, saying: “I am not voting for a regime that has restricted my social freedoms. Voting is meaningless.”

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women’s rights advocate, has called the election a “sham”.
On Iranian state TV, the mood was upbeat, featuring live coverage from across Iran, patriotic songs, and footage of people braving snow to vote in some towns and villages. Several people told state TV that they were voting “to make the supreme leader happy”.

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said voting is Iranians’ religious duty and was among the first to do so.
He warned on state TV that “the eyes of Iran’s friends and ill-wishers are on the results.”


Voting was extended three times, to allow latecomers to cast ballots, with the poll for seats in the 290-seat parliament eventually closing at 2030 GMT.
The 88-seat Assembly of Experts, which will choose the 84-year-old leader’s successor, is also being chosen.

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More than 15,000 candidates were running, mostly hardliners and low-key conservatives, and the first results may be known on Saturday.
Hashtags including #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus were widely shared on the social media platform X by activists and opposition, trying to remind Iranians that a high turnout would legitimise the Islamic Republic.
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Officials said the participation was “good”, according to state media, but witnesses said most polling centres in Tehran and several other cities were far from full.
Heavyweight moderates, conservatives and reformers have largely stayed out of what has been called an “unfree” and “unfair” contest.
Experts have said large numbers of Iranians no longer think the ruling clerics can solve an economic crisis caused by a mix of mismanagement, corruption and US sanctions.
It comes at a time of huge tension in the Middle East, as Israel fights the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, and other groups backed by Tehran attacking ships in the Red Sea and Israeli and US targets in the region.

Source : Sky News