Iranians voted Friday in parliamentary elections, the country’s first major ballot since the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 led to months of anti-government protests. No disturbances are expected to follow the vote this time around. The key question Friday was how many of the more than 48 million eligible voters would go to the polls to elect 290 new legislators. Late in the day, state TV reported a preliminary turnout of 64.5 percent, and voting was extended by five hours. While it was difficult to verify turnout, with no independent monitors on the ground, several polling stations in Tehran were receiving a constant stream of voters. Results are expected Sunday for larger cities and Monday for rural areas.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was one of the first to cast his ballot Friday. State television quoted him as saying that a high turnout would “safeguard” Iran’s reputation and security.
In recent weeks, Iranian officials have increasingly linked the vote to Western sanctions and Israeli threats of war over the country’s controversial nuclear program. They initially warned that so-called Western enemies might plan fresh anti-government protests. When no protests materialized, they withdrew those warnings and lauded the “effectiveness” of the national security forces in stopping “Zionist paid spies” at the borders.