Iranian government media are claiming a large turnout in the country's nationwide parliamentary elections Friday, despite numerous video reports by citizen journalists on social media showing that polling stations were largely empty.
Iranian state TV showed a large crowd of voters Friday at one Tehran polling station, moments after polls opened at 8 a.m. Friday. A number of mostly young male voters explained they were casting ballots because it was their duty.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians during a visit to Azerbaijan several days ago to vote in large numbers "because it is their religious duty" and because it will "foil plots by [Iran's] enemies."
Fifty-five-thousand polling stations were set up at mosques in towns and cities across the country. Many of the more liberal candidates for the 290-seat parliament were disqualified by the country's Assembly of Experts, leaving a choice of mostly conservative candidates for voters.
Of the more than 7,000 candidates who were purged by the Guardian Council, most were reformists and moderates, potentially giving the advantage to conservatives.
Fifty-eight million Iranians are eligible to vote. It is Iran’s 11th parliamentary election since the country's Islamic Revolution 41 years ago.
Conservative factions supportive of Khamenei are projected to capture a majority in parliament, a development that could adversely affect President Hassan Rouhani, whose willingness to collaborate with the West has been denounced by hardliners.
Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr told VOA that Iranians appear to be heeding a call by opposition leaders to boycott the parliamentary elections. He said that according to information that he is receiving from across the country, the boycott is quite widespread and that many people are trying to combine internal popular pressure against the government with outside economic pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump.
The first election results are expected to be announced on Saturday.