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AFP
May 17, 2021

Iran press voices concern over poll turnout

AFP
May 17, 2021

Iranian newspapers voiced concern on Sunday about the potential turnout for next month’s presidential poll, a day after candidate registration ended with several heavyweights joining the race.

The reformist press was particularly worried, arguing that a low turnout would favour the conservative camp as in legislative elections last year. According to the election committee, close to 600 hopefuls including 40 women have registered for the June 18 vote to elect a successor to moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term.

But only a handful will be allowed to run after vetting by the Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated, unelected body in charge of overseeing elections. According to the reformist Shargh daily, "various polls" show that "more than half" of eligible voters are expected to stay away.

The election is already widely viewed as a likely showdown between conservative Ali Larijani, a former parliament speaker, and ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi. A record 57 percent of Iranian voters stayed away from the February 2020 legislative elections.

This was attributed to the disqualification of thousands of candidates, many of them reformists and moderates, as well as voter disappointment with the economy and Rouhani’s performance.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers was expected to rejuvenate Iran’s economy by lifting punishing sanctions. But those hopes were dashed three years later as the US pulled out and unilaterally reimposed sanctions, leaving much of Rouhani’s second term tainted by a battered economy and unfulfilled promises.

The government-run Iran daily called for authorities to "guarantee the presence of candidates from (different) political orientations" to promote a "formidable turnout". It warned that Guardian Council disqualifications run a risk of fuelling public "frustration" when the Islamic republic needs a high "level of turnout".

The ultraconservative daily Javan called the election "more important" than previous polls due to the economic and social crises and the ongoing talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. It also called for a big turnout to show "strong support for the system".