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Iran elections: Low turnout in parliamentary vote

March 1, 2024

Iran's parliamentary elections saw low voter turnout as candidates competed for a seat in the 290-member parliament. New members of Iran's Assembly of Experts were also to be elected.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei votes
Around 15,000 candidates are vying for the 290 seats in parliamentImage: picture alliance/dpa

Iran held its first parliamentary elections since mass protests swept the Islamic Republic in 2022, triggered by the death of Jina Mahsa Amini while in custody.

"Voting for the 12th term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and the 6th term of the Assembly of Leadership Experts began following an order by the interior ministry," state TV reported Friday, using the official name of the Iranian parliament.

State television said that polling began at 8 a.m. and voting was extended for two hours and would now end at 8:00 p.m.

"There is a wide — and probably even irreversible — gulf between state and society, a regime that has no policy answers to the basic needs of Iranians, and where elections cannot lead to any kind of change," Ali Fathollah-Nejad, a German-Iranian political scientist at the Center for Middle East and Global Order in Berlin, told DW.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was among the first to cast a ballot in a vote that will decide which of the around 15,000 candidates will gain seats in the 290-member parliament.

Iran holds first elections since mass protests

Low voter turnout 

Voter turnout was expected to be low, with data from the state-owned polling center ISPA predicting a turnout of 23.5% in the capital, Tehran, and 38.5% nationally based on a survey of 5,121 voting-age people.

The election is unlikely to cause any major upsets with the conservative hardliners holding a tight grip on the electoral process.

"What we are going to see is that the social base of the regime is going to go to the ballot boxes," Fathollah-Nejad said.

"We're talking about 10% to 15% of the population of either ideologically or economically are somehow attached to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Basically it's a contestation within a very small part of Iranian society," he added.

Ballots will mostly undergo a manual count and final results might not come for three days, although partial results could appear on Saturday.

 A voter fills out her ballot at a polling station in Tehran
Iran began voting Friday with questions looming over just how many people will turn out for the pollImage: Vahid Salemi/picture alliance/AP Photo

Opposition groups and activists have been expressing their discontent over the vote on social media under the hashtags #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus and say the election legitimizes the country's leadership.

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate and women's rights advocate, Narges Mohammadi, has labeled the election a "sham."

Challenges facing Iran

Iran has faced some of its worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with mass anti-government protests in 2022-2023 and the vote is being seen as the first measure of public opinion since those demonstrations.

Iran has also been severely impacted by international sanctions which have contributed to an economic crisis.

It has also been drawn into the tensions that have been bubbling over in the Middle East region since the Israel-Hamas war began, with pro-Iran groups in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen involved in clashes with either Israel or its Western allies.

Why Iran and Israel are enemies

kb/ab (AP, AFP, Reuters)