Parliamentary elections in Iran: lowest turnout since 1979 revolution

Parliamentary elections in Iran: lowest turnout since 1979 revolution
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi votes in election amid growing calls for change in rules. / CC: President of Iran
By bne Tehran bureau March 2, 2024

Voter turnout in Iran’s parliamentary elections is reportedly at 40%, according to semi-official sources from Iran on March 2.

The 2024 Iranian local elections have a dismal voter turnout of just 40%, which, if confirmed, would mark the lowest participation rate since the 1979 Iranian revolution. According to exit poll data, 24,861,542 people exercised their right to vote. All eyes have been on Iranian officials' statements following the March 1 vote following increased opposition to the gerrymandered list of candidates. Heavyweight figures from reformists, centrists and conservatives have called the election unfree and unfair.

In Tehran, reports from the city appear to suggest people have voted for a mix of different factions, initial reports suggest.

However, according to some unofficial statistics, the preliminary results in the Tehran constituency suggest that four to five candidates, securing higher votes, are not from a single list.

State-run IRNA also reported 1,960 from 5,000 ballots in Tehran have been counted so far, based on an interior ministry report which is updated hourly.

Unofficial reports indicate front-runners such as Seyed Mahmoud Nabavian, Hamid Rasaei, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Manouchehr Mottaki, and Morteza Aghatehrani, who are known as so-called hardliners.

Officials from the eastern city of Kerman said that voter turnout was “nearly at 50% participation” Rahman Jalali, head of the election headquarters in that city said with a total of 254,786 votes cast in that province.

Following the vote Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said: "The ill-wishers of our beloved Iran had mobilised all their efforts to make the elections on 11th Esfand lacklustre.” He said in response to critics both inside and abroad of growing voter apathy.  

“Your presence, full of faith and hope, was a big 'no' to the anti-human front of arrogance (referring to the US) and wasted billions of dollars they spent designing and implementing this deceitful scenario,” Raisi added.

In recent years, there has been increasing criticism of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the official name of the Iranian lower chamber of parliament, of increasing sidelining of candidates, including those once close to the centre of power.

High-profile figures, including former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami, refused to vote in the local elections, Azar Mansouri, head of the so-called Reform Front, wrote on her X social media page.

Potential candidates are all pre-vetted by the country’s Interior Ministry, with credentials presented and checked to see if they meet the requirements of the strict Islamic system.

As for Iran's religious minorities, at least five people from the Assyrian, Armenian, Zoroastrian and Jewish communities will also be voted into their positions in the next parliament.

Two Armenian MP has been returned to parliament including Ara Shaverdian, from Tehran's Armenian community and Gagard Mansourian representing Armenians in Esfahan, was voted in with more than 82% vote of that community, according to the Armenian language newspaper Alik on March 2. 

For Assyrians, Charlie Anooyeh Tekyeh was voted in, while Zoroastrians voted in a female MP Behshid Barkhodar for that community, the final minority vote was for the country's shrinking Jewish population with Homayoun Sameh Yeh Najafabadi voted back into his seat.