Defying Western predictions and negative propaganda, Iranians in their tens of millions turned out for two crucial elections on Friday February 26 to elect 290 members to a new Majlis (Parliament) and 88 members to a new Assembly of Experts. Both elections are seen as important landmarks as they come less than a year after a nuclear deal was signed with the group of P5+1 countries. The Rahbar, Imam Khamenei was among the first to cast ballot.
Friday February 26, 2016, 20:43 EST
After extending voting several times because of massive turnout, polls closed in Iran at 23:45 local time (11:45 pm) on Friday February 26. Elections were being held for the Majlis (Parliament) as well as Majlis-e Khobergan (the Assembly of Experts).
Days prior to the elections, the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei urged the people of Iran to participate in the elections to uphold Islamic Iran’s system, independence and dignity. The people responded with their feet as long lineups were formed outside polling stations.
At stake are 88 Assembly of Experts seats and 290 Parliamentary seats. The Assembly of Experts—like an upper house—deals with such weighty issues as choosing the next Leader of the Islamic Republic as well as reviewing the conduct of the Rahbar. The Assembly of Experts, as the name suggests, is made of competent ulama. Those running for the Assembly have to pass an exam as per a law passed by the Experts Assembly to become eligible.
The Majlis passes laws as well as keeps an eye on the performance of various ministers.
Of some 55 million eligible voters, the Interior Ministry said the turnout was 70% or higher, based on exit polls. This far exceeds turnout in Western countries that claim to be champions of democracy.
The Interior Ministry also said in a statement that the election staff at each polling station was instructed to first count the ballots related to the Assembly of Experts poll and then do the same for the parliamentary election. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said results would be announced Saturday.
To set an example, the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei, was among the first to cast a ballot when polls opened at 8 am and he urged the 55 million eligible voters to do so as well “as it’s both a duty and a right." Election officials gave him his ballot papers after the Rahbar showed his papers to the officials, as per the law.
"Everyone must vote, those who love Iran, those who like the Islamic Republic, those who love the grandeur and glory of Iran," the Rahbar said. He went on: "We have enemies. Elections should be such that they make the enemy disappointed. We must vote with insight and open eyes."
Voting began at 8:00 am local time and was due to end at 6 pm but had to be extended until 11:45 pm to enable voters to cast ballot. While Friday is a holiday, it still needed extended hours to enable voters to exercise their right.
A total of 4,844 candidates, about 10 per cent of whom are women, are standing in the parliamentary election.
For the Assembly of Experts, the specialize body, there are 159 ulama contesting 88 seats.
Both the current speaker, Dr Ali Larijani, as well as a former speaker, Dr Gholamali Hadad Adel, are in the running for Majlis seats. There are no political parties in Iran but different groups do emerge based on their political inclinations. When asked about his group’s chances of success, Dr Hadad Adel, an educationist, said: "I'm optimistic."
He added: "I'm sure the Iranian nation... with their well-known insight, will continue the path of the Imam [Imam Khomenei] and the leadership [Imam Khamenei]."
Some results are expected as soon as Saturday February 27.