Iran Presidential Adviser Warns That Low Election Turnout Will 'Please' Enemies and Prompt More Sanctions

An adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is among the regime officials warning that a low turnout in Friday's parliamentary elections will undermine the country's leaders and encourage its enemies to put more pressure on the government.

Observers have predicted low turnout among Iranian voters, whether as a protest against the theocratic government or out of indifference.

The regime has endured a turbulent year, buffeted by American sanctions following the collapse of the nuclear deal and subsequent economic strain, mass civil unrest subdued by brutal force, and a military stand-off with Washington that resulted in the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani and the accidental downing of a passenger plane in which 176 people were killed.

But Hesameddin Ashena, a senior adviser to Rouhani, said Wednesday that voters must put aside their anger and vote for the good of the nation.

Low turnout, he predicted on Twitter, "will only please Iran's enemies and lead to increased sanctions, an increased probability of military invasion, larger budgets for hired anti-Iranian media, a decline in national resilience and reduced political bargaining power."

Iran's reformists currently hold sway in parliament but this week's vote is an opportunity for hardliners to reassert control over the body, which is ultimately falls inline behind the ultra-conservative Guardian Council and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Whichever faction wins Friday's contest will be poised to select the next president when Rouhani's term ends in 2021.

Candidates for the parliamentary elections must be vetted and approved by the 12-member Guardian Council, which is composed of six Islamic law experts and six jurists. Of the roughly 16,000 people who applied to be candidates, the council has barred 9,000 from standing.

The U.S. on Thursday sanctioned five members of the body for electoral manipulation. Council spokesperson Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei—who was among those sanctioned—said the move was "worthy of the American regime, a regime still plagued by election uncertainties and the crime of assassinating pioneers in the fight against terrorism."

He added, "The United States has no right to talk about Iran's senior figures."

Khamenei said earlier this week, "Friends and foe are watching out for the election results," seeking to gauge the impact of President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran. He warned it was a national, revolutionary, and religious duty for Iranians to go to the polls.

The supreme leader has also dismissed "top-notch fools" abroad who are commenting on the election, suggesting international speculation constitutes attempted interference.

Iran, election, parliament, vote, turnout
An Iranian woman casts her ballot during parliamentary election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran on February 21, 2020. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty