July 1, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iranian Election Registers Lowest Voter Turnout Since 1979

July 1, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iranian Election Registers Lowest Voter Turnout Since 1979

Latest Developments

The Iranian presidential election on June 28, which now moves to a runoff vote between two candidates, recorded the lowest voter turnout in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s history. At least 60 percent of Iranian voters refrained from voting in the contest — a decrease of about 9 percent compared to the 2021 presidential election won by previous President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May. In a June 25 speech, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “maximum” turnout in the election in an effort to legitimize Iran’s undemocratic system, which enables the regime’s 12-member Guardian Council to reject any candidate.

Of the four candidates who ultimately competed, so-called reformist lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian received 42.5 percent of the vote and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili received 38.6 percent, according to Iranian state media outlet IRNA. Since no candidate secured more than 50 percent, Iran will hold a runoff election between Pezeshkian and Jalili on July 5. The current election marks only the second time that a second round has been held since the clerical regime came to power in 1979. The other occasion was in 2005, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Expert Analysis

“As in all of Iran’s rigged elections, this one was stage-managed by the ‘Supreme Leader’ and his Guardian Council. Both candidates heading to the second round are united by the core principle of loyalty to the Islamic Republic. There are no reformists in Khamenei’s Iran. The historically low turnout amounts to a no-confidence vote in the entire regime by the people of Iran.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“As expected, voter turnout — even when citing regime statistics — has been abysmal and another record-setting low in the four-plus-decade history of presidential races in Iran. This is yet another measure for Iranian society, preferring the street over the ballot box, to contest and change the nature of the state. With a second round of elections now looming, the regime will try to use the prospect of a hardline consolidation to encourage greater participation but, in the end, maneuver the contest in a preordained direction.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Uptick In Regime Repression

Low voter turnout highlights disillusionment among Iranian voters about a seemingly pre-ordained process controlled by Khamenei and the Guardian Council. International media coverage of the June 28 vote emphasized the indifference many Iranian voters feel. “Even those who say they will vote — although they rarely want to say for whom — say they have little faith that their lives will change in ways that matter to them,” The New York Times reported.

Low voter turnout has coincided with nationwide protests in recent years calling for the Islamic Republic’s downfall. The regime’s repression has persisted even during the presidential election campaign. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran estimates that, since Raisi’s death in May, the regime has sentenced at least 12 women activists to prison for defying Iran’s law mandating the wearing of the hijab, or headscarf. The judicial process lacked “any semblance of due process or fair trial rights, including the denial of chosen counsel,” the center said.

The clerical regime has used coercive threats to spur greater voter turnout. Iran International reported on June 28 that prisoners in Saqqez in western Iran “are being compelled to participate in Friday’s presidential election under threat of penalties.” The penalties could include three to six additional months of imprisonment or up to 74 lashes, according to the Kurdish human rights organization Kordpa.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Pushes for ‘Maximum’ Turnout in Presidential Election Amid Voter Disillusionment,” FDD Flash Brief

Why Does Iran Hold So Many Elections?” by Saeed Ghasseminejad

Iran’s Presidential ‘Election’ Seeks to Consolidate Regime’s Control,” by Behnam Ben Taleblu and Janatan Sayeh

Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad Vying to Succeed Raisi,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Politics and Economy