A young Iranian woman is walking past electoral posters in downtown Tehran, February 2024.

Iran Warns Of Crackdowns On Online Dissent On Eve Of Elections

Tuesday, 02/27/2024

Iran's Cyber-Police (FATA) Chief has issued a warning regarding online political activities ahead of the upcoming elections amid speculation of the lowest turnout since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Clearly aware of the mass discontent with turnout expected to be as low as 15 percent, Vahid Majid said, "Violations in the virtual sphere are being addressed to preserve the celebratory ambience of the elections from being marred by inaccurate content."

Iran continues to suppress dissent on social media. In the wake of a recent terror attack, more than 70 people were arrested for comments on social media about the incident. 

Political dissent has been massively quashed in the wake of the 2022 uprising, with hundreds of Iranians rounded up for social media activity, reaching to the top levels of society with celebrities, satirists and sports stars punished with social media bans, travel bans, bank freezes and even death sentences for social media activism.

Majid's warnings come amid allegations of corruption of the electoral process, with many provinces only having one option on the ballot.

With the regime fearing the international perception of a mass election boycott on March 1, not least amidst a proxy war in the region fueled by Tehran and ongoing criticism of the country's nuclear program, Mehdi Kouchakzadeh, a candidate in the parliamentary elections, said, "If the level of participation drops slightly, the enemies might conclude that nobody supports the government".

His statement comes as over 275 political, social, and cultural activists have collectively announced their decision to boycott the forthcoming elections. Citing concerns over electoral manipulation and the erosion of public governance rights, the activists advocate for electoral reforms to ensure genuine participation and representation.

The announcement of the boycott reflects a broader trend of disillusionment and discontent within Iranian society. Recent years have witnessed a decline in voter turnout attributed to economic challenges, political suppression, and dissatisfaction with the electoral process. Economic hardships, soaring inflation rates, and social unrest stemming from past protests have further exacerbated public frustration.

The severe repression of the protests in 2022, increased surveillance, fueled by the enforcement of hijab laws and internet censorship by authoritarian figures, has also worsened public dissatisfaction.

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