Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Big turnout, short lines at polling stations

It will be interesting to see the results.

Iran’s Government Declares Huge Turnout in First National Vote Since ’09 Protests
Iran’s government declared an enormous turnout for the parliamentary elections held Friday, calling it another “epic” sign of support for Iranian theocracy and a thumb in the eye of the West.

In the first national vote since a disputed presidential election in 2009, scenes of crowded polling places and voters with ink-stained fingers dominated state television and online news sites, alongside none-too-subtle editorials declaring that the vote defied Western perceptions of domestic discontent in Iran. Iran’s opposition movement — whose leaders have been jailed or placed under house arrest — had called for a boycott of the vote.

Iran’s supreme leader and other top officials had called in recent days for high voter turnout as a way to show defiance toward the West at time of extraordinary tension. Iran’s economy is staggering under the latest round of sanctions, and there is rising speculation that Israel will bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities…

The reported turnout seemed at odds with the short lines and relatively empty voting booths described by a number of Iranians in the capital and a few other major cities over the course of the day…

But others cautioned that the official numbers could very well be accurate, especially in light of a recent campaign by Iranian high officials and clerics that declared voting a national and religious duty at a time of stress and danger. The appeals to patriotism and piety are especially effective in Iran’s hinterland, away from the more worldly precincts of northern Tehran…

Lying below the surface of this year’s election is a fierce struggle between partisans and rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose second and final term ends next year. He hopes to maintain influence by electing lawmakers who are loyal to him. That has irked Ayatollah Khamenei, who has empowered lawmaker allies to cut the president down to size. Iran’s Parliament is weak, and if the election yields an even more compliant body, it could become easier for the supreme leader to abolish the office of the president in a further consolidation of his power, something he hinted at last year.

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