Khamenei in last-ditch attempt to shore up voter turnout
Iran’s supreme leader has made a last-ditch attempt to shore up voter participation as the country heads to the polls on Friday, warning of a foreign conspiracy to discourage Iranians from taking part in the presidential elections.
In a widely reported televised address, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that he was hopeful Iranian voter turn-out would be high, vowing that Iranians' "presence and vote" enabled them to "determine the fate of the country".
He suggested participation would raise the country's "prestige" and that a strong show of public support would force Iran's enemies to back down from "pressure" campaigns.
"If we want the pressure by the enemies, including economic pressure such as sanctions and so on, to be removed or eased, the participation of the people should increase and our public support shown to the enemies," Khamenei said.
He also suggested complaints of poverty and socioeconomic deprivation were insufficient excuses to boycott the ballot box.
"Not going to the polling station and breaking up with the ballot box will not solve the problem. If those problems are to be solved, it's through all of us going to the polling stations to vote for someone who we believe can solve the problems," Khamenei said.
"To say that 'let's not vote because we have (economic) complaints', that's not correct in my opinion."
In the remarks, aired two days before the elections, he claimed that foreign agents had been engaged in sinister efforts to discourage voters from participating.
"In this year's election the US and UK media and their mercenaries have for many months sought to question Iran's elections and undermine people's participation,” the ageing supreme leader said.
His extended address comes as desperation over a poor turnout grows amid high-profile boycotts from prominent activists and many citizens who dismiss the election as a sham.
Several candidates have withdrawn from the race, after seven candidates were whittled down from a list of 600 by the country’s conservative-dominate Guardian Council, who barred a range of top reformist and moderate allies of President Hassan Rouhani.
Polling suggests that hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi will win by a landslide.