Tehran, Iran – Fifty-seven-year-old Mehri took out her ID card and showed all the stamps on it.
“Look at this,” he said. “I have been voting for 40 years, there is almost no room left.”
A mother in a widow’s house lives in a small rented apartment south of the Iranian capital, Tehran. He is counting on a weekly payment sent by his 30-year-old son, who lives with his wife and has one child on the way.
Under huge financial pressure, seeing no clear way out, he refused to vote in Iran Presidential elections this time – but persuaded his son.
“Last time I voted for the key, this time I am voting for the lock to see what happens,” Mehri told Al Jazeera on Friday, referring to the election symbol of ousted President Hassan Rouhani. when he first stood up in 2013, and again in 2017, և to his opponent Ibrahim Rice.
Rice, the current chief justice, was largely defeated in 2017, when he received almost 16 million votes, or 38 percent, instead of Rouhani’s more than 23 million ballots, or 57 percent.
This time, however, he is far from the four leading candidates for the presidency.
Inside the polling station near the shrine of Shah Abdul Abdul-Azim, a large monument to Ray, one of the southernmost districts of the capital, everyone seemed to want to vote for him.
“I hope he will move forward with the program, he can solve people’s problems,” Al-Jazeera told 40-year-old Afsane Norouzi of the so-called revolutionary camp, a conservative candidate favored by her base.
“This inflation and rising prices are hurting people. “I hope what he says is not just a slogan, he can really act,” said the housewife, who was there for the first time with her voting daughter.
A group of young people, all of them first-time voters, were talking to each other as they cast their ballots into the murky heat of the day.
They did not seem to be flattering. “I have no special expectations,” one said after voting for Raisi, and the other added, “We just got caught up in gossip, we don’t really know what to expect.”
In elections where the winner does not seem to be everything but certain, turnout, which many expect to be low, has become a major issue.
Of Iran’s 83 million people, 59.3 million are eligible to vote, of which more than 1.3 million are first-time voters.
The number of eligible voters includes about 3.5 million Iranians living abroad, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which says ballots are accepted at Iranian embassies and consulates in 133 countries.
The ministry has strongly criticized Canada, where about 400,000 Iranians are eligible for voting, for not allowing Iranians to move to stations in several US states instead.
Although conservative Iranian reports on Friday indicated that turnout could be higher than expected, the election is still projected to have the lowest voter turnout since the 1979 revolution.
The lowest turnout in the past four decades was recorded at more than 50 percent in 1993, when the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was re-elected. Last year’s parliamentary elections, which were also marked by widespread disqualification of reformers, as well as the presidential election, saw a 42 percent turnout.
The fading enthusiasm for the election is something that is reflected in the rhetoric of Iranian officials leading to the election.
“On Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech that while he acknowledged that some people were unhappy with the state of their economy and their livelihood, they should not shy away from elections as it would increase external pressure on Iran’s enemies.”
Earlier on Friday, he said: “Even one vote matters, no one should say what will happen to my one vote.”
Despite previous criticism of the “removal” of reformist “moderate candidates” by the Board of Trustees, known as the Guardian Council, a threat to the legitimacy of the republic, all senior officials in Rouhani’s government have publicly urged people to vote.
“I was just exhausted”
However, the message does not seem to reach many Iranians who are worried about the future, but who are also frustrated by a number of problems, not only with a limited economy but also with social freedoms.
“I was just exhausted from the pressure inside and outside the country. I hope this time my voice can change something,” said a 28-year-old man who voted in 2017-2013, who asked not to be named. :
“I think false hope at this point will be worse than feeling hopeless,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that he would choose to stay on Friday.
Iran is under the toughest US sanctions ever, when former President Donald Trump unilaterally renounced Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.
Another anonymous person who had previously voted for Rouhani also said he chose to abstain this year.
“Maybe I would have voted if Hemat had a chance to win,” said the 34-year-old, referring to Abdolnasser Hemat, one of four candidates, who remained the only moderate in the vote.
But voting in these conditions, he said, “only signals to the institution that people are voting regardless of the situation, so next time they will get worse.”
Indeed, Hammat and Rohani themselves have warned that “removing” candidates could not only undermine the legitimacy of the establishment, eliminate competition, but also undermine the republican element of the Islamic Republic.
“Whatever the outcome, I am satisfied with my decision. “My vote went to Hematy to save the republic and save Iran,” wrote Twitter user Mahsa Soltani, posting a picture of herself with her voice.
Another user, journalist ein Eynab Safari, wrote on his Twitter page that he voted “not to gain something, but to prevent the loss of a few.”