Iran parliamentary elections: Are they free and fair?

Iran is holding parliamentary elections Friday, marking the first vote since the disputed 2009 elections that sparked months of unrest. Will they be free and fair?


A girl points as she helps her father write the names of candidates at a mosque, used as a polling station, in central Tehran March 2. (MORTEZA NIKOUBAZL/REUTERS)

“Politicians who called for more freedoms, drawing millions of votes, have been arrested and marginalized, while a new crop of hard-line clerics and Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders — who believe in rule by those they deem God’s representatives on earth — is gaining influence.”

These pre-approved clerics and commanders are also widely expected to win most of the seats in the new parliament.  Most of the members of opposition Green Movement, who had called for more freedoms, will not take part in Friday’s polls.

Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Thursday saying it would be impossible for Iranians to vote in free and fair elections because of the level of censorship imposed on the media.

But one aspect of the media was working well on Friday for the first time in weeks — the Internet.

I wish there were elections in #Iran everyday, the internet has gone from diesel to 12V/415pk Ferrari engine overnight

— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) March 2, 2012

An Iranian blogger, however, reported that social media sites remained blocked.

Erdrink reports that polling stations were busy early Friday, with people voting “for all sorts of reasons: support of leader, stamp in ID card, or for ‘more freedom’,” he wrote on Twitter.

Iranian state TV trumpeted the success of the elections. On its Web site, the headline Friday read: “Elections play key role in Iran's security,” quoting Ayatollah Khamenei, who made the remarks after casting his vote.

An Iranian blogger, Potkin Azarmehr, noted that state TV station was consistently broadcasting patriotic songs.

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