Iran trumpets high turnout in parliamentary elections (+video)
Iran's leaders see today's parliamentary elections as central to affirming their popular support – especially at what Supreme Leader Khamenei called a 'more sensitive period' of tensions with West.
Iran today began declaring a "high turnout" less than 90 minutes after polls opened for parliamentary elections, a vote leaders have cast as crucial proof of popular support for their regime.Skip to next paragraph
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State-run broadcasters trumpeted what they called a "new wave of Islamic democracy" that would serve as a "model" for the rest of the Islamic world, but made no mention of the fact that opposition reformists have been purged from politics, their candidates banned from this election, and their popular leaders under house arrest.
"The higher the turnout, the better for the future, prestige, and security of our country," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said after casting his ballot. "The vote always carries a message for our friends and our enemies."
Ayatollah Khamenei said it was a "duty and right" of Iranians to vote, and made clear this election comes at a "more sensitive period," because Iran is being targeted over its nuclear program and for confronting the West.
Officials claimed Iranians were taking heed.
Turnout was "remarkable and enemy-breaking [and] unparalleled," the head of the Election Commission, Seyed Solat Mortazavi, declared, according to an Al Jazeera translation of a Fars News Agency report. "The prediction is that the nation will inscribe a new record in the political history of Iran."
The semi-official Fars News also reported that "high and fervent turnout" caused ballot papers to run out within hours in Tabriz, in northwestern Iran.
One official reportedly likened every vote cast to a "nuclear bomb dropped on our enemies."
Soon after polls opened, Iran's Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar noted that Khamenei compared voting to the obligation of daily prayers, and said Iranians "will renew their connection" to all the sanctities of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and confirm it is on the "right path."
The election is the first since 2009, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the landslide victor against a less conservative rival, the former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is now under house arrest.
Millions took to the streets in protest for months, charging election fraud and asking "Where is my vote?" Scores if not hundreds died in the crackdown, searing the event into the collective consciousness of Iranians across the political spectrum.
By calling for a mass turnout today, Iran's conservative leaders are trying to overcome the gap of trust created in 2009, when it destroyed the "virus" – in the words of a Basij militia commander – of the opposition Green Movement.
Since then, politics in Iran has been transformed. In keeping with opposition calls for a boycott, many reform-leaning Iranians stayed at home for today’s vote, judging by their negative comments on social media sites and the virtual absence at polling stations of more Westernized Iranians – one relatively obvious sign of some opposition supporters. Reuters reported sparse voting in wealthier northern Tehran.
One grandfather told a correspondent for Tehran Bureau website: “War hasn’t broken out yet but the famine that comes with it is already upon us. Vote?”
Instead, the conservative cut of the voters who stood in lines to vote – as shown on Iranian state TV – reflected the nature of the hard-line political factions which alone are contesting this vote.