Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hailed Iran’s elections as "great and epic" on Tuesday, despite the boycott by a large majority of voters and the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic.

“The Iranian nation did a jihad and fulfilled their social and civil duties,” he said, and as usual, accused “enemies” of trying to dissuade Iranians from voting. However, he claimed that they were defeated by the people’s “epic turnout and jihad.”

“Don’t the sixty percent who did not vote count as Iranians?”, former reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi tweeted after Khamenei’s remarks.

According to official figures, 61.1 million Iranians were eligible to vote, and 41 percent turned out at polling stations including at least 5 percent who cast void and blank votes. However, they were so many electoral gimmicks before and during the election day that few believe even the modest turnout numbers claimed by the government.

Blank and void votes are usually cast by those who may have been rounded up and forced to vote against their wish such as government employees, soldiers, and athletes, and could be interpreted as “protest votes”.

In a note from Tehran’s Evin Prison, dissident reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh called the elections “engineered” and a “historic failure” of the system and the person of Khamenei, both in terms of turnout and mandate of those to occupy the seats of the parliament in a few months from now.

Reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh

Tajzadeh was responsible for holding the parliamentary elections of 2000 as deputy interior minister. An outspoken critic of Khamenei since the controversial presidential elections of 2009, he has spent more than eight years behind bars since then.

The regime made every effort to ensure a high turnout in a bid to prove its legitimacy both domestically and internationally, but many social media users claim the election boycott was extremely successful and “epic”.

They point out that for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, at least 60 percent of eligible voters chose not to vote in elections that they considered stage-managed in every step of the way and extremely unfair.

Many social media users have also alleged that the official turnout figure of 41 percent is nothing to be proud of, by Khamenei’s own standards, even if it were true.

Social media users have also extensively shared the video of a Khamenei’s sermon in 2001 in which he mocked Western countries for low turnout in their elections. He said in his sermon that a turnout of 40 percent was a cause of shame and indicated that the citizens of these countries, including the United States, did not trust their political system.

The extremely low mandate of top candidates in all constituencies could only mean a much lower turnout, many argue.

Mahmoud Nabavian who has the highest number of votes in the parliamentary elections this time, with around 600,000 ballots, had ranked 52nd in the elections of 2015 with 692,000 votes. The total number of his votes is slightly more than the last of Tehran’s 30 representatives in the parliamentary elections of 2020.

The number of eligible voters in Tehran was 7.77 million in these elections so Nabavian is representing 7.7 percent of the eligible voters. According to official figures, only 24 percent of Tehran’s eligible population voted.

The top elected candidate in Tehran has never had less than 844,000 in previous elections.

Nabavian is a member of the small but very influential ultra-hardliner Paydari Party.

The current speaker, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, has dropped to the 4th place in Tehran this time and only received 447,000 votes. His weaker position may become a challenge to his ambitions of leading the next parliament, analysts say.

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