The Guardian: Iranians went to the polls yesterday to elect a new parliament, but just as many stayed away out of scepticism that their vote would make any difference. The Guardian
Julian Borger in Tehran
Iranians went to the polls yesterday to elect a new parliament, but just as many stayed away out of scepticism that their vote would make any difference.
Turnout appeared particularly low in Tehran, where queues at polling stations were a rare sight. Political observers said it would be surprising if the turnout was much above the historic low of 51% set at the last parliamentary elections in 2004.
The ruling religious conservatives, running this year under the banner of Principlists, have guaranteed their grip on power by barring many of the opposition reformist candidates from standing.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is supposed to remain above the political fray, delivered a clear endorsement for the government of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iranians should vote “for those who can pave the way for the current government which is active and willing to serve”, he was quoted in Iran’s media as saying.
In the face of such odds, reformists have struggled to convince their supporters it was worth voting. Seyed Safavi, a candidate for the reformist National Trust party, said: “We have no other option. There is only one way to go.”
Government support was strongest in working-class south Tehran. At a mosque near Shohada (Martyrs) Square, Zeinab Rahimi said she had voted for the president’s supporters, as they were “the group that thinks about the people and knows the people’s pain”.
Many Iranians see no one on the carefully vetted candidates lists who represents their views.
“The people you see voting here are people employed by the government, and who depend on the government. Ordinary people do not have a good life and they don’t vote,” said Ali Mohamed Shah. “Of my family and friends, not 1% are going to vote. All the people on the list are the same. It’s all the same regime.”