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Polls open in Iran as activists call for boycott of election

Iranians holding their identity cards as they wait to cast their ballots during Iran's 12th presidential election, at Shah Abdol Azim mosque in Tehran, Iran on 19 May, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]
Iranians holding their identity cards as they wait to cast their ballots during Iran's 12th presidential election, at Shah Abdol Azim mosque in Tehran, Iran on 19 May, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

Iranians cast their ballot in the 11th parliamentary elections today.

A total of 55,000 polling stations opened across the country at 8am to serve the nearly 58 million elible voters, Reuters reported.

The Iranian parliament, officially known as the Islamic Consultative Assembly, is a 290-seat legislative body with 207 constituencies. Its members are elected every four years.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei cast his vote at the Hussainiyeh of Imam Khomeini in Tehran and described the election as a “national celebration and “unique reality in history of democracy”, Iranian daily Tehran Times reported.

Khamenei: Voting in Iran’s election ‘a religious duty’

“Firstly, election day is a national celebration and I congratulate this celebration to all dear countrymen across the country. Secondly, it is the day of the materialisation of the civil rights of the nation. Thirdly, this is a religious duty,” he said.

Encouraging Iranian citizens to vote, Iranian state TV showed footage of people lined up at polling stations.

Observers told MEMO that authorities will be hoping for a high voter turnout as a sign of support for the regime.

“This year’s vote also sets the tone for next year’s presidential elections,” Iran political expert Furkan Ozyakar, PhD candidate at Exeter University, explained.

“It is the first such poll since the US renewed sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme, battering its economy.

This is also my second time that I witness an election in Iran. When you compare with the other elections, it seems that there is no election today. Streets are very calm. Because, Iranians will vote to elect new parliament amid economical uncertanity. Especially, around three miliion first time voters (Iranian youth) have no hope in terms of economy,” he added.

READ: Khamenei loyalists may tighten grip at Iran elections

“Today will prove the ineffectiveness of US policies towards Iran … The Iranian government by holding the election in a timely manner showed that the US policies against Iran is already defeated,” Dr. Mohammad Reza Majidi, Associate Professor at Department of Regional Studies at the University of Tehran, told MEMO.

Women’s rights activists have however called on people to boycott the election with journalist Masoumeh “Masih” Alinejad-Ghomi saying “this is not a free election”.

“As a woman in Iran, I don’t have the right to choose what I want to wear… I don’t have the right to sing. I don’t have the right to dance. I don’t have the right to ride a bicycle,” she explained, adding: “But, I have been given a right to vote in election.This is called dictatorship… I won’t vote for my own oppressors.”

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