Tehran: Iranians began voting Friday in a parliamentary election which conservatives are expected to dominate, capitalising on public anger against moderate conservative President Hassan Rouhani over a ravaged economy, corruption and multiple crises.
State television showed the Islamic republic’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casting the first ballot in Tehran.
As he voted, Khamenei called on all Iranians to take part in the election “as soon as possible,” saying that doing so would “guarantee the country’s national interests”.
The 11th parliamentary election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution comes after steeply escalating tensions between Iran and the United States and the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner that sparked anti-government protests.
Experts predict a low turnout with rising voter apathy that they say will serve the conservatives at the expense of Rouhani, who was re-elected in 2017 promising more freedoms and the benefits of engagement with the West.
Iran has been hit by an economic slump and high inflation following harsh US sanctions after President Donald Trump pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018.
“Iran’s biggest problem is not having stability, peace and calm,” said Amir Mohtasham, who is 38 and jobless.
“Our elections are useless. Even the current parliament has 90 sitting MPs who are under investigation for financial corruption,” he said.
Nearly 58 million people are eligible to vote.
Around half of the 16,033 hopefuls will contest the 290 seats up for grabs across 31 provinces after the Guardian Council barred thousands of would-be candidates, mostly moderates and reformists.