Iranians voted on Friday in their first national poll since the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, choosing a new Parliament they hope will fix their country's sanctions-hit economy.
The elections, to fill the 290 seats in Parliament, were being boycotted by Iran's main opposition and reformist groups, the leaders of which have been under house arrest for the past year.
But Iran's regime said halfway through polling that — despite the lists offering virtually only conservative candidates — voters were participating in even greater numbers than in the previous legislative election in 2008, when a 55 per cent turnout was recorded.
The regime is keen to show it enjoys widespread popular support when the final official figures for the elections are announced on Sunday or Monday. Any suggestion of significant abstention would draw attention to alienated reformist supporters, many of whom were subject to a bloody crackdown in 2009 when they protested what they saw as a fraudulent win by Mr. Ahmadinejad.
These elections, however, no protests were expected.
Several voters echoed Ayatollah Khamenei's assertion that their turnout was a blow to the West, which is imposing sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.
Voting was “a slap in the face of arrogance”, one voter, 19-year-old teacher Mohammad Mehdi Bahrambeygi, said, repeating Ayatollah Khamenei's phrase referring to the West.
But it was Iran's economy that was the overriding preoccupation. Runaway inflation, increasingly costly food, high unemployment and the effects of the sanctions aimed at curbing oil sales and international financial transactions have all taken their toll, many voters told AFP in Tehran.
“I want this election to curb inflation. Look, it costs a lot to buy groceries even at the municipality [wholesale] shopping hub,” said one voter in the east of the city, shopkeeper Amir Tonekaboni, 40.
“My kids have no job,” said Javaher Eslami, a 77-year-old housewife who wanted the next legislature to “help the young get better employment opportunities”.
Mohammad Ali Parvazdavani, an 18-year-old student voting for the first time, said the MPs in the next Parliament “should be brave and say what the real problems are and try to solve unemployment, and fix the economy to the best of their ability”.
Keywords: Iran Parliamentary elections