Iranians have started casting their votes in Iran’s 11th parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.
PressTV reports that, polling stations across the country opened at 8:00 a.m. (0430 GMT) on Friday and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei was among the first to cast his ballot.
Speaking after casting his vote, the Leader said, “These elections mark a day of national celebration and I have to congratulate all my fellow countrymen across the country on this occasion.”
“Secondly, the day of elections is the day of the fulfillment of the civil rights of the people which seek to vote and participate in determining the future of the country, as they are entitled to,” the Leader added.
“Thirdly, it is a religious obligation and the truth is that it is elections which guarantee the national interests of the country and anyone who is interested in the national interests of the country should vote,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The Leader urged voters to turn out early in the day and to vote based on the number of total competing candidates in any given city.
Ayatollah Khamenei concluded his remarks by praying for the country and also thanking the media for covering the event.
Images shared on social media also showed long lines of people standing in front of polling stations waiting to cast their votes early in the morning.
In an Instagram post on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the parliamentary elections demonstrated Iranian belief in a “common fate” among different and at times opposing factions in the country.
He also added that Friday’s elections demonstrated Iran’s “resilience” in the face of injustice, a trait he described as being rooted in Iranian culture and central in safeguarding the country.
‘Washington’s disregard for democracy’
The voting comes a day after the US imposed sanctions on five senior members of Iran’s Guardian Council which is responsible for supervising the electoral process in the country.
US special representative for Iran Brian Hook – who announced the measures Thursday – accused the officials of preventing free and fair elections.
On Friday, Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei slammed the sanctions as “sham and illegitimate” measures demonstrating the United States’ disregard for democracy.
He added that the US in fact “desired the region’s dictatorial governments as child-killing regimes, seeing them as cows that can be milked for benefit”.
In a tweet on Thursday, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, one of the sanctioned Guardian Council officials, said that it was his “highest honor” to be sanctioned by “those whose hands were stained by the blood” of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
The region’s most popular anti-terror military figure, Lieutenant General Soleimani was assassinated in early January by Washington while on an official visit to Iraq.
The voting comes after a one-week election campaigns, which officially kicked off last Thursday.