TEHRAN:- Iranians vote in two crucial elections as the country looks to a post-sanction period to rebuild its economy and shape its relations with the outside world.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Friday the elections have an added importance as he cast his vote in the opening hours of the voting at a polling station in downtown Tehran.
Elections are always important but in certain junctures they have more importance, Ayatollah Khamenei said.
As the polls opened at 8:00 local time (0430 GMT) long queues formed in the capital Tehran, our correspondents reported. Iranian news agencies also reported high turnout elsewhere in the country of 80 million, where 55 million people are eligible to vote.
Ayatollah Khamenei called on all Iranians to participate in the elections, saying voting is both a right and a duty.
Anybody who loves Iran, anybody who loves the Islamic Republic and national dignity, grandeur and glory is advised to participate in the elections, the Leader said.
A key burning issue on the minds of the Iranians is economy which found center stage during a week of campaigning by candidates.
Most of the 4,844 candidates, including about 500 women, opted to get down to brass tacks in their campaign trails, including a nagging stagflation. The official unemployment rate stands at 10 percent and inflation hovers around 15 percent.
Ayatollah Khamenei advised voters to participate in this great task with the intention of generating additional dignity and full independence for the country.
Our enemies have their covetous eyes trained on Iran. People are advised to vote with discretion and foresight and disappoint the enemies, Ayatollah Khamenei said.
President Hassan Rouhani was also among the first officials to cast his ballots at the Interior Ministry in Tehran.
Addressing Iranians, Rouhani congratulated the nation on its high turnout even in the early hours of voting, saying reports show full security prevailing at polling stations across the country.
He said the elections are a symbol of Irans independence and national sovereignty, adding that after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian nation cut the hands of enemies that were interfering in the countrys domestic affairs and took over its own destiny.
The Iranian chief executive further said the active political participation of people means trust in the establishment, saying the government will spare no efforts to protect peoples vote and ensure healthy and legitimate elections.
I have no doubt that the Iranian nation will create another epic at this important juncture, President Rouhani stressed, adding that all people and political factions taking part in the polls are victorious.
As many as 4,844 candidates, including about 500 women, are competing for a place in Parliament, head of the Interior Ministry’s election headquarters Mohammad Hossein Moqimi said on Thursday.
In the capital Tehran, some 1,000 candidates compete for 30 parliamentary seats. Five seats also go to the religious minorities recognized in the Iranian Constitution, namely Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians.
Members of Parliament serve four-year terms.
Among the main tasks of the legislative body are introducing legislation, dismissing the president and cabinet ministers through no-confidence votes, approving annual national budget and ratifying international treaties.
In the simultaneous vote on Friday, Iranians will also select 88 senior religious figures of the Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with appointing the Leader and monitoring his performance.
A week of heated election campaigns came to a close on Wednesday night. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani said opinion polls and estimates showed the turnout would be at around 70 percent.
Rahmani Fazli added that the vote counting will begin as soon as the polls are closed.
All necessary measures have been taken in various parts of the country in preparation for vibrant elections, and no security issues have been reported, he said.
He pointed to special features of the ballots being used in this years elections, saying they have been designed in a way to lower the chances of fraud.
There are 52,000 polling stations with 120,000 ballot boxes across the country, according to the Iranian minister.
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