Growing momentum in Iran for election boycott campaign

Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, urged Iranians to boycott the upcoming elections in Iran in a statement on Saturday.

“The Islamic Republic deserves national sanctions and global condemnation. Sanctioning elections is not just a political step but also a moral obligation,” Mohammadi wrote.

“Sanctioning elections under a despotic religious regime is not only a political move but also a moral duty for freedom-loving and justice-seeking Iranians. The Islamic Republic, with its ruthless suppression, the killing of young people on the streets, the executions, and the imprisonment and torture of individuals, deserves national sanctions and global condemnation,” Mohammadi added.

“I, along with informed and proud individuals from all over Iran, will stand united to denounce the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic and expose the division within the oppressive regime and its people through the sanctioning of sham elections.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a parliament meeting in Tehran, Iran, January 22, 2023. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Mohammadi, a journalist and human rights activist, has been imprisoned since 2021 and has spoken out from prison about human rights abuses committed by the Khamenei regime.

On Friday, March 1, elections for the Majlis (parliament) and the Assembly of Experts will take place in Iran. The Assembly of Experts is responsible for appointing or dismissing the Supreme Leader of Iran, although the extent of their authority is uncertain.

Candidates for both the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts undergo vetting by the Guardian Council, a body of 12 jurists half appointed by the supreme leader and half nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed by the Majlis. The council also reviews legislation passed by the Majlis.

The Iranian Majlis has 290 seats, including representation for various religious and ethnic minorities across Iran. Iran is divided into 207 electoral districts, each with multiple representatives.

Former President Hassan Rouhani’s application to run in the Assembly of Experts elections this year was rejected by the Guardian Council. Rouhani has demanded answers from the council but has not received a response.

Majority of Iranians against or uninterested in upcoming elections

Recent polls show a lack of interest or opposition toward the elections in Iran.

A poll conducted by the Iranian newspaper Vatan Emrooz revealed that 52% of Iranians were unaware of the election date. Another poll found that only 36% knew the election day.

Additional polls suggested that only around 30% of Iranians planned to vote in the upcoming elections, with projected low turnout in Tehran. One survey indicated that 39% of those who voted in the 2019 parliamentary elections do not intend to vote this time.

If a referendum on the Islamic Republic were held today, about 75% would vote “no,” 16% would vote “yes,” and about 9% were unsure. Preferences for methods of change were split between protests, elections, or neither being effective.

Other topics, such as the Israel-Hamas conflict, were also discussed in the polls, showing various viewpoints among Iranians.

Former President Mohammad Khatami and reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh have expressed concerns about the lack of free and competitive elections in Iran, urging reformists to boycott the upcoming elections.

Regime officials push for election participation despite disinterest

As interest wanes, Iranian leaders are calling on citizens to participate in the elections.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and IRGC Commander Hossein Salami have encouraged voting, emphasizing the importance of elections for the country’s reform and political vitality.