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Iranians Tire of Tensions, Restrictions as Elections Near

A pedestrian walks past campaign posters for parliamentary election candidate Majid Hajifaraji at Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) street in downtown Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Thousands of Iranian candidates approved to run in…
Iranians Tire of Tensions, Restrictions as Elections Near
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As elections near, Iranian leaders appear to be worried about several crises that have left people with little hope for the future.

Tensions with the United States, economic weakness and the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger airplane have tired Iranian voters.

Elections are to be held on February 21.

This is not good news for leaders who hope that a lot of people will vote. If many people vote, it sends a message to the U.S. that Iran has not been hurt by sanctions.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on state television this week that voting is a “religious duty.” Many see this election as a test of his popularity.

Both he and his allies have made sure most of the candidates are hardliners -- people considered to have severe or extreme ideas. Most of those elected will likely make the parliament even more hostile to the U.S.

But a low number of voters would help critics inside and outside the country. Many critics say the Islamic Republic needs to change its policies because the country is suffering economically.

“I’m a person who has voted before. My hope was that things would get a little better when I voted in the past. Now, all the red lines have been crossed,” said a doctor in Tehran. Her office cannot get the medicine or equipment she needs.

“This time, I have no hope and I will definitely not vote,” she said by phone. She asked not to be identified.

Four years ago, things were very different. Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and his allies had won many seats in parliamentary elections. They were seen as moderates. Many had hoped that a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015 would lead to the end of sanctions.

Those hopes died after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from an international nuclear agreement in 2018. He placed more sanctions on Iran in an effort to limit its nuclear program. The sanctions also seek to limit Iran’s ballistic missile program and end its involvement in several proxy wars in the Middle East.

“The main root of everything is the economy,” said Ali, who sells mobile phones in Isfahan. He talked to the Reuters news agency by telephone and asked that he not be identified.

“If (a person) doesn’t have the money to take home bread to his wife and family, then he’ll stop praying and even lose his beliefs,” said Ali. He said he does not plan to vote.

“I voted for several years and it didn’t make any difference,” he said.

Government officials have been under pressure since last year, when protests turned deadly. Demonstrators were angry over increases in the price of fuel. Security officials answered with force. Hundreds of protesters are believed to have been killed. The effort to suppress the protests was among the most violent events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Then, a U.S. drone strike killed Qassem Soleimani, a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, in January in Iraq. Iranians supported their government’s anger. But support quickly disappeared when it became clear the Iranian government had lied about the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner. All 176 people on the plane were killed.

The Revolutionary Guards apologized for shooting down the passenger jet. But thousands of people still protested in several cities.

Even before the latest troubles, sanctions cut Iran’s oil exports by more than 80 percent. People are continuing to suffer from economic hardship.

The International Monetary Fund notes that Iran is expected to have 31 percent inflation this year.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sanctions - n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country

ballistic missile - n. a weapon that is shot through the sky over a great distance and then falls to the ground and explodes

proxy - adj. power or authority that is given to allow a person to act for someone else

drone - n. a type of small aircraft that flies without a pilot