Ballot boxes set for the March 1 election, Yazd, central Iran

Regime Tries To Boost Turnout Expectation In Iran Elections

Wednesday, 02/28/2024

Two days before Iran's parliamentary elections, there is a stark contrast between politicians' and the government's predictions regarding voter turnout.

This occurs amid the Iranian government's apparent directive to the media not to report on any polling data regarding the expected turnout for the upcoming elections.

Former reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi disclosed on Monday that recent polls conducted in Tehran suggest a turnout ranging between 6 to 9 percent. Additionally, he indicated that turnout in provincial capitals and other major Iranian cities might hover around 20 percent, with an overall national turnout forecast of 24 to 27 percent. These predictions were last updated in August during the initial round of candidate registration.

Alternate forecasts peg Tehran's turnout at approximately 15 percent, in contrast to a nationwide forecast of around 30 percent. The 2020 parliamentary elections turnout was also below 50 percent, but closer to 40 percent, which at the time was considered an all-time low.

In previous election cycles, polling agencies routinely published monthly turnout forecasts based on opinion polls. However, this year, the government imposed a ban on publishing such results starting in October. Despite objections from many journalists and politicians, the government's decision remained in effect.

Meanwhile, IRGC-linked Fars News Agency whose reports are usually biased and manipulated in favor of hardliners in the government, put the likely turnout at an exaggerated 71 percent on Tuesday.

An event to encourage people to vote in the parliamentary election, Tehran, February 27, 2024

In another development, the Iranian state TV reported the details of Fars News Agency's poll, adding that 41.5 percent of those responding to the agency's poll said they will definitely take part in the elections, 29.5 percent said they were still undecided by Tuesday morning, and 29 percent said they will definitely not take part in the elections. However, the TV report quoted Fars as saying that 16.3 percent of those who were still undecided had indicated the likelihood of going to the polls on Friday.

In the meantime, clerics in Iran have been going out of their way to encourage Iranians to vote. An un-named seminarian was quoted as saying that not voting will delay the re-emergence of the Shiites' hidden Imam from the occult. Another cleric, Mohammad Bagher Mohammadi Laini, who is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's representative in Mazandaran Province said, "If you ask the martyrs, they would suggest that you should definitely take part in the elections."

At the same time, doubts and opposition are also on the rise as the election date nears. Election banners were reportedly set ablaze in Sistan-Baluchestan Province. In Tehran, while a moderate conservative candidate was defending the Iranian Constitutional Law, a student lashed out at him, telling him it was irrelevant to talk about the law at a university where students have been beaten and arrested for defending the same law.

The governor general of Tehran told reporters that during his meetings with the people many asked why they should go to the polls as elections are not likely to change anything in Iran.

Meanwhile, in an article in the centrist daily Ham Mihan, social media researcher Mohammad Raahbari wrote that some popular politicians avoid encouraging others to take part in the elections as they are aware that doing so will endanger their social credibility among some of the elite and their friends at a time when the government's legitimacy is in decline. Rahbari argued that when the people cannot trust the organizers of the election and the candidates alike, naturally, calling on others to take part in the election will harm one's reputation.

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