Iranians Prepare for Elections Amid Economic Challenges

Wed Feb 28 2024
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TEHRAN: Iranians are gearing up to participate in legislative and key assembly elections scheduled for Friday, with expectations leaning towards conservatives consolidating their power in the absence of significant competition.

The elections unfold against a backdrop of mounting economic difficulties in Iran, exacerbated by the aftermath of widespread protests triggered by the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while in custody.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is slated to cast the inaugural ballot on Friday at 8:00 am (0430 GMT) at one of the 59,000 polling stations across the country. In a recent address, Khamenei emphasized the importance of widespread participation in the elections, citing it as essential for national authority and security.

However, concerns loom over the turnout, with a recent state television poll revealing that more than half of respondents displayed indifference towards the electoral process. Out of Iran’s population of over 85 million, approximately 61 million citizens are eligible to vote.

The upcoming elections follow a previous parliamentary vote in 2020, which saw a historically low turnout of 42.57 percent, attributed in part to the Covid pandemic.

Amidst what has been described as a “cold” political atmosphere, characterized by subdued voter enthusiasm, analysts anticipate a dominance of conservative and ultra-conservative candidates, akin to the composition of the current parliament.

Hopeful candidates underwent a vetting process, resulting in the approval of 15,200 individuals out of the 49,000 who initially registered to contest the 290 parliamentary seats.

In addition to parliamentary elections, voters will also elect members of the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, tasked with appointing the supreme leader. Notably, former moderate president Hassan Rouhani disclosed that he was disqualified from seeking re-election to the assembly after 24 years of membership.

While some opposition figures have called for a boycott, citing concerns over the fairness and competitiveness of the elections, others have highlighted socioeconomic challenges facing the nation. Iran’s economy continues to grapple with the impact of crippling US sanctions and internal pressures, including inflation and currency depreciation.

Despite the political and economic landscape, many Iranians remain skeptical about the potential for significant change through the electoral process, expressing doubts about the ability of the new parliament to address pressing economic issues.

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