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Iran’s hardliners poised to strengthen control in upcoming election amid growing discontent

State TV reported polling stations opened their doors to voters at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT). Voting is scheduled to last for 10 hours, although this time can be extended. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran.

By Newsd
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Iranians vote for a new parliament on Friday, but growing frustration over economic woes and discontent at the hardline clerical rulers’ restrictions on political and social freedoms are set to keep many people at home.

State TV reported polling stations opened their doors to voters at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT). Voting is scheduled to last for 10 hours, although this time can be extended. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran.

“Vote in early hours,” Khamenei urged Iranians. The election is the first formal measure of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But with heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of the vote and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election”, the contest is between hardliners and conservatives who proclaim loyalty to Islamic revolutionary ideals, potentially dashing the rulers’ hopes for a high turnout. Official polls suggest only about 41% of Iranians will vote on Friday.

“I’m seeking a change in regime, and I’ve decided not to vote as it would only serve to reinforce the Islamic Republic’s hold,” said university student Mehran, 22, in the central city of Isfahan. “I want to live freely.” 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 state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions. Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that large numbers of Iranians no longer think Iran’s ruling clerics capable of resolving an economic crisis driven by a mix of U.S. sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.

While establishment supporters will likely vote for hardline candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home. Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimise the Islamic Republic.

The parliament 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.

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