Iran elections: Counting begins as reports suggest low turnout

  • By Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News, London

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Friday’s elections have been seen as a crucial test of legitimacy and national support for Iran’s leadership – but a low turnout was expected

Iran has started counting ballots for parliament and key clerical body elections as unofficial reports suggest Friday’s vote saw the lowest turnout since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The elections were the first since widespread protests triggered by the September 2022 death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurd.

She was held for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

More than 61.2 million Iranians were eligible to vote.

Two separate polls took place on Friday: one to elect the next members of parliament, and another to elect the Assembly of Experts.

The assembly selects and oversees Iran’s most powerful figure and commander-in-chief, the supreme leader, who makes decisions on issues such as social freedoms and economic conditions.

Iran has been badly hit by international sanctions, an economic crisis, widespread hardship and violent unrest.

Despite Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s appeal for people to cast their votes, many Iranians were split on whether or not to take part.

Image caption,

An Iranian woman shows her ink covered finger after she cast her vote at Ershad mosque in northern Tehran

Early polling on Friday suggested the election’s turnout could be at a new record low and is thought to be particularly low in the capital, Tehran.

A state-linked polling agency projected a 41% turnout for the parliamentary elections – which, if accurate, will be the lowest turnout in the past 12 such votes.

Caroline Davies, the first BBC reporter in Tehran since 2019, reporting on the election

Video caption,

Watch: The BBC’s Carrie Davies visits a Tehran polling station as voting begins

With votes tallied manually, Iran’s ballot takes time to count. Some of the results have been announced. According to Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, most of the Assembly of Experts for major cities have been counted.

This assembly is a group of 88 Islamic clerics who have the responsibility to select the next supreme leader when the time comes – Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 84 and the new assembly will sit for eight years.

Around 50 of the 290 parliamentary seats so far have been declared by some city councils. The final results are likely to be clear tomorrow.

No official turnout figure has been announced. Analysts suggested a low turnout would be a show of disenchantment with politics after many of the country’s officials called for voters to head to the polls.

The Supreme Leader, who cast his vote first, did so saying “vote as soon as possible, the eyes of Iran’s friends and ill wishers are on the results”.

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