Iranians are voting in their country’s eleventh parliamentary election, seen as a test for the popularity of President Hassan Rouhani’s reformist-moderate camp, as hardliners are expected to make gains.
Elections for Iran’s 290-member Parliament are set amid escalating political tensions, economic struggles and concerns of low participation. The spectre of the coronavirus infection that has killed two people also adds another layer of uncertainty to the electoral process.
Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei cast his vote in the capital, Tehran, minutes after the polls opened on Friday at 8am local time (04:30 GMT).
In a speech after he cast his vote, Khamenei reiterated calls for a higher voter turnout, telling Iranians to participate in the elections “if they were interested in the country’s national interests”.
Voters on Friday will also choose replacements for seven deceased members of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body responsible for appointing the Supreme Leader.
Nearly 58 million people are eligible to vote on pre-selected lists of candidates that represent more than 250 registered parties. All voters must be more than 18 years of age. Almost three million are first-time voters.
A total of 55,000 polling stations have been set up at mosques throughout the country. More than 7,000 candidates, including 666 women, are competing.
Long queues could be seen at the main polling station set up at Masjid al-Nabi, the main mosque in the middle-class Narmak neighbourhood where former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lives.
A spokesman for the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, said in a statement that 200,000 supervisors from the council were overseeing the polls throughout the country.
Polls are expected to close at 6pm (14:30 GMT) but can be extended. During the previous parliamentary elections in 2016, voting was extended due to a high turnout.