Iran’s Supreme Leader votes in managed elections, Tehran, March 1, 2024

Iran’s regime suffered a record low turnout in Friday’s managed elections for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts.

Unofficial reports in Iranian media put participation at around 40%, despite the Supreme Leader urging voters to show up as a message to “enemies”.

The turnout broke the mark of 42.5% set in the 2020 elections for the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts, which selects and nominally supervises the Supreme Leader. In 2016, participation was 62%.

Many Iranians have been disillusioned by the regime’s repression since 2009, when it cracked down on protests by millions of people over the disputed Presidential election. The leaders of the Green Movement opposition — Mir Hossein Mousavi, who may have gained the most votes in the election before it was manipulated; fellow candidate and former Speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karroubi; and Mousavi’s wife, academic and artist Zahra Rahnavard — have been under house arrest since February 2011.

The discontent has been compounded this year by mass disqualification of candidates by the Guardian Council, half of whose 12 members are appointed by the Supreme Leader. Among those banned was Hassan Rouhani, the centrist President from 2013 to 2021.

Mohammad Khatami, reformist President from 1997 to 2005, was among those who did not vote. Women’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a political prisoner, called the ballot a “sham”.

The Hamshahri newspaper tried to maintain the turnout was “a 25-million slap” to calls for a boycott, but the headline pro-reform Ham Mihan noted “The Silent Majority” who stayed away.

Amid the managed vote, President Ebrahim Raisi was re-elected to the Assembly of Experts with 82.5% of the vote in his constituency.