Voting in a parliamentary election this week is "a religious duty" for Iranians, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said yesterday, days before the vote seen as a referendum on the clerical establishment's popularity.
Iran's hardline Guardian Council vetting body has rejected some 6,850 moderate or conservative hopefuls in favour of hardliners from among the 14,000 applicants seeking to contest the Feb. 21 vote. About a third of lawmakers have also been barred from standing again.
"Today, voting is not only a revolutionary and national responsibility, but it is also a religious duty," Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television.
Due to the large number of disqualified candidates, hardliners loyal to Khamenei are likely to dominate the 290-seat parliament.
Friday's vote will have no major influence on foreign affairs or Iran's nuclear policy, which is determined by Khamenei.
"Elections are a means to strengthen the country ... A weak parliament will have long-term affects ... a weak parliament will negatively affect our fight against enemies," he said. "The election will neutralise American's ill intentions ... the vote is the Islamic Republic's prestige."
Tensions have been high between Iran and the United States since 2018, when US President Donald Trump exited a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, reimposing sanctions that have battered the country's economy.
In retaliation, Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the deal.
Confrontation with America, economic hardship and an airline tragedy have battered Iranians' confidence in their leaders, posing a potential problem for the authorities in a parliamentary election this week.
Campaigning will end tomorrow, on the eve of the vote, for which 58 million Iranians are eligible to vote out of a population of 83 million.