02/20/2020, 12.12
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Khameni tells Iranians voting is religious 'duty', activists call for abstention

The religious guide calls for electorate to vote "to strengthen the nation" in the "battle against enemies". Opposition and civil society, excluded from the race, call for a boycott . In the background, the unsolved problems, from the economy to conflict with the United States.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - Going to the polls and voting in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for February 21, is a "duty" imposed by "faith" and applies to the whole population. The key of religion is used by the supreme Iranian guide, the great Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to push the population to the ballot box, while appeals are multiplying, above all among the moderates and reformists, in addition to the world of activism for rights and freedoms to the boycott.

“Today, voting is not only a revolutionary and national responsibility, but it is also a religious duty,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television". The vote, concluded the religious and political leader of the Islamic Republic, "will neutralize the bad intentions of the United States [...] the vote is a source of prestige" for the country.

In reality, the elections are already suspect, due to the high number of rejected candidates (almost 7 thousand) on the moderate and reformist front. Furthermore, it will not affect foreign policy or nuclear policy decisions, which are almost exclusively the preserve of Khamenei. However, if  conservatives and hard-line exponents command in the Majlis they will l represent an element of further difficulty for the Iranian president, the moderate Hassan Rouhani, subject to further pressure from the circle of the supreme guide.

Relegated to the margins of the challenge, the opponents of religious and theocratic leadership are calling for a boycott of the vote, stressing that they have no democratic element and only serve to strengthen the image of power. A low turnout seems to emerge as the (only and last) weapon to oppose the leaders of the Islamic Republic, especially in conservative circles who expect a victory that appears obvious.

In a message shared on her smartphone, and published on her husband's Facebook page, civil rights activist Narges Mohammadi says that the boycott is the only peaceful way to express dissent, given that demonstrations are no longer authorized. "We must rise up - underlines the woman, sentenced to 10 years for" founding an illegal group "- in the most civilized way possible and launch a strong boycott campaign, to respond to the government's repressive policies".

The country's unresolved problems loom: the head-on collision with the United States, economic difficulties and recent protests and clashes, the latest of which triggered by the aerial tragedy over the skies of Tehran at the beginning of the year. Citizens seem to be marked by a series of crises that have seriously undermined hopes of a better life cultivated in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the election to the presidency of a moderate figure. "My hope - a doctor from Tehran, whose clinic is struggling to find medicines due to US sanctions "is that the situation could improve when I voted in the past. Today all the red lines have been crossed "and the situation is dramatic, so much so that" I have no hope and I will certainly not go to vote".

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