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AFP
February 19, 2020

Khamenei says voting is ‘religious duty’

World

AFP
February 19, 2020

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader said on Tuesday it is a "religious duty" for people to vote in this week’s general election and strengthen the Islamic republic against the "propaganda" of its enemies.

"Participating in elections and voting... is a religious duty, not just a national or revolutionary duty," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech, parts of which were aired on state television. "Elections nullify many of the vicious plots the Americans have in their minds and Zionists have in their hearts against the country," he said, referring to US ally Israel.

Iranians are set to elect a new parliament on Friday, with conservatives expected to make a resurgence. Observers expect a low turnout as many reformist and moderate candidates have been barred from running by the Guardian Council.

The council, made up of six clerics appointed by the supreme leader and six lawyers selected by the judiciary, disqualified more than half of the 14,444 hopefuls. The move threatens the thin majority of President Hassan Rouhani’s alliance in parliament.

Friday’s election comes after months of domestic turmoil and steeply escalating tensions between Iran and its arch enemy the United States. In November, nationwide demonstrations over petrol price hikes turned violent before being crushed in a deadly crackdown.

Tensions with Washington have risen since 2018 when US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions. But they have never come as close to a direct confrontation as in the past seven months, when it has happened twice, most recently after the US killed prominent Iranian general Qasem Soleimani on January 3.

Iran hit back on January 8 by firing a barrage of missiles at US troops in Iraq. It had been on high alert for US retaliation that day when they shot down a Ukrainian airliner in Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

The downing of the Boeing 737, which the armed forces later admitted was accidental, sparked more protests that turned political. Khamenei said the election would show that Iran’s enemies had failed to divide the nation.

"Watch how the people favour the election despite the enemies’ insistence on distancing the people from the system," the supreme leader said.Khamenei said the “first-class idiots in the US are once again lining up to say some nonsense about” Iran.

“Partially, what they say is to affect the [turnout in the] elections... to make people despair of the ballot box,” he said.“The nonsense they speak is also partially to make up for their ineffectiveness,” he added, referring to how the regional tide had turned against America after the assassination of General Soleimani.

“The Americans wanted our dear martyr (General Soleimani), who had a very deep impact on the region, to be taken out so that they could prevail. Things turned out the opposite way.”Brian Hook, who has been the US’s so-called special representative for Iran, claimed on January 17 that the Iranians would “have little to say” in the elections, which he called a “sham.” Last week, American news and opinion website The Daily Beast reported that Hook held meetings with an associate of the anti-Iran terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) in September 2019 and January this year, before and after General Soleimani’s assassination.

He said the US did all in its power — in military, political, security, economic, cultural, and media terms — over the past 40 years to topple the Iranian establishment. Not only did America fail in those attempts, the Leader said, but it also saw the Iranian establishment grow “a thousand times” stronger.He said the US was the most indebted country in the world — with 22 trillion dollars in national debt — and was merely making itself up to look good.