Middle East

Iran parliamentary election: Tehran voters divided

Voters in the Iranian capital Tehran are divided over whether to take part in Friday's parliamentary elections. Pro-reform politicians and groups are calling for a boycott.

On the streets of Tehran the election campaign has moved into top gear. There are posters of candidates plastered on the walls, and at every street corner campaigners are handing out leaflets and flyers.

The main television channels have been playing patriotic music and urging people to go out and vote. For some voters the excitement is genuine.

Babak, who lives in the city, is one of the nearly four million young Iranians who will be voting for the first time on Friday.

He says he is looking forward to showing his support for the government in the face of what he sees as unfair pressure from outside.

''Yes I have problems with decisions made by Iranian officials," he wrote in an email to BBC Persian's Your Turn interactive programme.

"But I'm going to take part anyway, because I think the US is bent on Iran's destruction. Just look at our neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan."

This is a view echoed by some other Iranians who have got in touch with the BBC over the past weeks to talk about the elections.

Muhammad Ahwaz, from the south-western city of Ahvaz, said it was important for Iranians to vote and show they were standing firmly behind their government in the face of growing tensions over Iran's nuclear programme.

"Our participation will give Iranian officials more room for manoeuvre in regional and international politics as well as at the nuclear talks," he wrote.

Muhammad Ali, 66, is a transport worker from Tehran. His generation remembers life before the Islamic revolution and he has not lost that pride in "religious democracy" which many Iranians still see as a cornerstone of their Islamic state.

Television reports

"I will support the polls and respect the results whatever happens because I want to be able to have my own share in state decision-making," he told BBC Persian.

Image caption There are nearly 3,500 candidates standing in the election

But not everyone is convinced.

"On public transport you hear people talking all the time about how nothing has changed since they last went out to vote in the presidential election," Sam, a student from Tehran told the BBC.

"In actual fact things have got worse in terms of living expenses, freedom of speech, freedom press and assembly."

Muhammad, a businessman from the western city of Marivan, was just three years old when the revolution happened and he takes a similarly jaded view.

"This is not an election, it's an appointment," he told BBC Persian. "I have boycotted all elections and will continue to do so."

The question of whether to go and vote or to stay away has become one of the most hotly debated issues of this election.

The country's two main opposition leaders, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, have not explicitly called for a boycott, but opposition groups are not fielding candidates. Both leaders are currently under house arrest.

And many younger votes say they will not be going out to vote.

Some, like Jamhuman, go even further, warning people to stay away from the polling stations altogether to avoid being mistaken for voters used to bump up numbers in television reports.

"We shouldn't even hang around out of curiosity on 2 March," he wrote in to the BBC Persian. "The state-run media would take advantage by filming the crowd even in long shopping queues to show it is enjoying stability and legitimacy."

Others question the logic of boycotting the vote.

"Staying away from elections wouldn't do much," wrote one blogger called Farzin on a site which is linked to Mr Karroubi.

"It would only let the ruling establishment ensure sweeping wins by widespread ballot stuffing and vote buying."

There are nearly 3,500 candidates standing in the election, but Saeed, from Tehran, complained that he felt they offered no real choice to voters because they were all conservatives of one shape or another.

"It's a farce," he wrote in an email to BBC Persian. "They've created all these fictitious political groups to downplay the reformists' boycott and say that there are a lot of candidates to choose from. I think they are all the same."