Ali Khamenei casts his vote during Iranian presidential election in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021. REUTERS./

By Parisa Hafezi

 – Iranians voted for a new parliament on Friday, seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s legitimacy at a time of growing frustration over economic woes and restrictions on political and social freedoms.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran.


“Vote as soon as possible … today the eyes of Iran’s friends and ill-wishers are on the (election) results. Make friends happy and disappoint enemies,” Khamenei told state TV.

The election is the first formal measure of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s rulers need a high turnout to repair their legitimacy, damaged after the unrest. But official polls suggest only about 41% of Iranians will vote. Turnout hit a record low of 42.5% in the 2020 parliament vote, while about 62% of voters participated in the 2016 parliamentary election.

Cast Your Vote – I Won’t Sting

The interior ministry said over 15,000 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament. Partial results may appear on Saturday.

Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimise the Islamic Republic.

“I’m seeking a regime change. I’ve decided not to vote as it would only serve to reinforce the Islamic Republic’s hold,” said university student Mehran, 22, in the central city of Isfahan. “I want to live freely.”

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women’s rights advocate, has called the election a “sham”.

The parliament, dominated by hardliners for over two decades, has negligible impact on foreign policy and the nuclear row with the West, issues determined by Khamenei.


With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of the race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election”, the contest is between hardliners and conservatives who proclaim loyalty to Islamic revolutionary ideals.

Many pro-reform Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.

Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that large numbers of Iranians no longer think the ruling clerics capable of resolving an economic crisis caused by a mix of U.S. sanctions reimposed after the failure to revive Iran’s nuclear deal, mismanagement and corruption.

The election comes at a time of mounting tensions in the Middle East, where Israel is fighting a war against Tehran-backed Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza, and with groups backed by Iran attacking Israeli and U.S. targets in Lebanon and the Red Sea.

Khamenei has accused the country’s “enemies” – a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel – of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.

The parliamentary election is twinned with a vote for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, an influential body that has the task of choosing the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by William Maclean and Miral Fahmy)