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Sunday April 14, 2024

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

By REUTERS
March 01, 2024
Men walk past a wall bearing an electoral campaign poster, ahead of the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections, in Tehran on Saturday. — AFP
Men walk past a wall bearing an electoral campaign poster, ahead of the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections, in Tehran on Saturday. — AFP

DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election today (Friday) seen as a test of the clerical estalishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.

The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.

Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He 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 commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart”.

But 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 state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.