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Disappointed Iranian voters pledge election boycott as Khamenei loyalists take the lead

Khamenei loyalists are geared to win [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 February, 2020

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Iranians are intending to boycott the upcoming general elections following a declining economic situation and tense relations with the US.
Iranians intend to boycott the upcoming general elections as the country’s conservative bloc, made up of allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dominate the field.

Many Iranians, battered by economic sanctions, political turmoil and the lingering threat of military conflict resulting from the past confrontations with the US over the killing of commander Qasem Soleimani, say they are in no mood to vote in general elections this week.

People in Iran are refusing to vote, citing a loss of trust in politicians and broken promises over raising living standards.

"No way! There's no way we are going to vote!" 62-year-old Pari told AFP. Her daughter also intends to boycott the parliamentary polls Friday because she no longer trusts politicians.

"It's difficult for everyone in Iran nowadays. We're fed up. We want to send a message that we're not satisfied with the situation," the mother added.

"There's no work, no future," said Pari's daughter Kiana, adding that she no longer "trusts the authorities" and is dismayed by their "lack of honesty".

President Hassan Rouhani, re-elected in 2017, promised more social and individual freedoms and gave assurances that Iranians would be able to benefit from a warming of relations with Washington.

But many people feel their lives have been crippled by the economic slump and exacerbated by harsh US sanctions since US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran.

Added to this has been the threat of military conflict as Trump has ramped up a campaign of "maximum pressure" against the Islamic republic.

Amir Mohtasham, a 38-year-old who has been jobless for two years said he worries about the lack of vision of those candidates allowed to stand for elections.

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"It seems none of the candidates has a plan for anything," he said.

"Neither the conservatives nor the reformists are trustworthy. They only care about votes... Our elections are useless."

The credibility of Iran's leaders took a hit among many when authorities denied last month that Iranian armed forces had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner, before they came clean days later.

The vote comes after months of steeply escalating tensions between Iran and its decades-old arch enemy the US.

The Guardian Council, the body that rigorously vets candidates, disqualified more than half of the 14,444 who sought to stand - including dozens of mostly moderate and reformist incumbents.

A 30-year-old carpet merchant called Mohammed accused Rouhani of spreading "lies".

"We voted for Rouhani with a dream, but we didn't achieve anything," Mohammad said, accusing the authorities of spreading "lies".

"People no longer have peace of mind," he said. "When the people aren't the ones who decide, why should we vote? If voting is legitimising, then we won't vote."

Pari Aghazadeh, a fashion designer, doesn't intend to vote either.

"I honestly don't want to vote, because it won't fix our problems," she said, accusing the government of mismanagement.

"This government, this system doesn't care at all about women. We don't have any personal freedoms," she said.
At least by boycotting the vote, she said, "we can voice our protest".

A crackdown on protests

Last month Iranian security personnel used "unlawful force" during peaceful protests after Tehran admitted it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner killing 176 passengers.

Images and eyewitness testimonies provided to Amnesty International indicated authorities had targeted protesters with rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray, along with pointed air gun pellets normally used for hunting.

It said security forces also beat demonstrators with batons, kicked and punched them and made arbitrary arrests during protests on Saturday and Sunday.

A Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down by a missile shortly after take-off from Tehran on 8 January, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

Iran initially dismissed Western claims it was brought down by a missile before admitting it on Saturday.

The blunder and the official response sparked four consecutive nights of protests.

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