Voting in a parliamentary election this week is “a religious duty” for Iranians, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday, days before the vote seen as a referendum on the clerical establishment’s popularity.
Iran’s hardline Guardian Council vetting body has rejected some 6,850 moderate or conservative hopefuls in favor of hardliners from among the 14,000 applicants seeking to contest the Feb. 21 vote. About a third of lawmakers have also been barred from standing again.
“Today, voting is not only a revolutionary and national responsibility, but it is also a religious duty,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television.
Due to the large number of disqualified candidates, hardliners loyal to Khamenei are likely to dominate the 290-seat parliament.
Friday’s vote will have no major influence on foreign affairs or Iran’s nuclear policy, which is determined by Khamenei.
The final authority in Iran’s complex system of clerical rule and limited democracy, Khamenei has supported the Guardian Council, saying the next parliament was no place for those scared of speaking out against foreign enemies.
“Elections are a means to strengthen the country … A weak parliament will have long-term affects … a weak parliament will negatively affect our fight against enemies,” he said.
“The election will neutralize American’s ill intentions … the vote is the Islamic Republic’s prestige.”
Tensions have been high between Iran and the United States since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump exited a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, reimposing sanctions that have battered the country’s economy.
Read the full article by Reuters, February 18, 2020