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Iran: People frustrated over poor economy that lead to low turnout in parliament vote

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Iran: People frustrated over poor economy that lead to low turnout in parliament vote

Iran: People frustrated over poor economy that lead to low turnout in parliament vote

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  • Iran’s parliamentary elections are set for Friday, but the real question is the actual turnout.
  • State-owned polling center ISPA has not released any information about the expected turnout.
  • The parliament has oversight over the executive branch, votes on treaties, and handles other issues.
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Iran is holding parliamentary elections this Friday, yet the real question may not be who gets elected but rather how many people turn out to vote. Many people are quietly expressing their intention not to vote in this election due to widespread discontent over the cratering economy, years of mass protests rocking the country, and tensions with the West over Tehran’s nuclear program and Iran’s support for Russia in its war on Ukraine.

Officials have urged people to cast ballots, but tellingly, this year the state-owned polling center ISPA has not released any information about expected turnout — a constant feature of past elections. Out of 21 Iranians recently interviewed by The Associated Press, only five stated they would vote. Thirteen indicated they would not, and three said they were undecided.

“If I protest about some shortcoming, many police and security agents will try to stop me,” said Amin, a 21-year-old university student who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals. “But if I die from hunger on the corner of one of the main streets, they will show no reaction.”

Over 15,000 candidates are competing for a seat in the 290-member parliament, formally known as the Islamic Consultative Assembly. Terms run for four years, and five seats are reserved for Iran’s religious minorities.

According to the law, the parliament has oversight over the executive branch, votes on treaties, and handles other issues. In practice, absolute power in Iran rests with its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Hard-liners have maintained control of the parliament for the past two decades, often chanting “Death to America” from the floor.

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Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guard general who supported a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999, led the legislature to advance a bill in 2020 that greatly curtailed Tehran’s cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Following then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018 — an act that sparked years of tensions in the Middle East — Iran enriched enough uranium at record-breaking purity to have enough fuel for “several” nuclear weapons if it chose.

More recently, the parliament has focused on issues surrounding Iran’s mandatory headscarf, or hijab, for women after the 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, which sparked nationwide protests.

The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. A subsequent security crackdown resulted in the deaths of over 500 people, with more than 22,000 detained.

Calls for an election boycott have spread in recent weeks, including from imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women’s rights activist, who labeled them a “sham.”

“The Islamic Republic, with its ruthless and brutal suppression, the killing of young people on the streets, the executions and the imprisonment and torture of men and women, deserves national sanctions and global disgrace,” Mohammadi said in a statement.

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