Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday called on voters to put aside their grievances and participate in a presidential election on Friday.
Rouhani said a record number of people are expected to boycott amid economic hardship and frustration with the hardline rule.
Die-hard judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and moderate former Central Bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati are the main candidates after the Die-hard Guardian Council disqualified several prominent candidates from the race and others resigned.
Rouhani, a relatively moderate, on Thursday urged the Iranians, at the end of the campaign, not to let “the shortcomings of an institution or a group” prevent them from voting, an apparent reference to the Council of Guardians.
“For now, let’s not think about grievances tomorrow,” Rouhani said in televised remarks.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has previously urged people to move in large numbers, saying it would help avoid foreign pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Official opinion polls suggest the turnout could be as low as 41%, significantly lower than in previous elections.
In addition to anger over the disqualification of prominent moderates, grievances include economic hardship exacerbated by US sanctions as well as official corruption, mismanagement and crackdown on protests in 2019 sparked by rising fuel prices.
The accidental downing of a Ukrainian plane in Iran in January last year, which left 176 people dead, also undermined public confidence.
Fatemeh, 55, refusing to give her middle name for fear of reprisal, said that “voting would be an insult to my intelligence. Raisi has already been selected by the government, no matter who we vote for.
Prominent dissidents inside and outside the country have called on their Iranian compatriots to snub the elections, including former exiled crown prince Reza Pahlavi and opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, under house arrest since 2011 .
On the other hand, many prominent reformists have rallied around Hemmati, including former President Mohammad Khatami, arguing that a massive boycott would guarantee Raisi’s victory.
Under the Iranian constitution, the supreme leader, elected for life and responsible for choosing six of the 12 members of the Council of Guardians, holds most of the state’s powers.
Polling stations open at 7:00 a.m. local time and close at 2:00 a.m. on Saturdays.
The Home Secretary told state television that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voting will take place outdoors at 67,000 sites across the country, with social distancing and wearing of face masks. Voters are asked to bring their own pens. (Reuters / NAN)