March 14, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11202

Iran Election 2024 – Part III: Khamenei And Regime Mouthpieces Tout 'Glorious' Elections With 41% Voter Turnout – But In 2001 Khamenei Called The 40% Turnout In The West 'Disgraceful,' Adding: 'It Is Obvious That Their People Do Not Trust Their Political System, That They Do Not Care About It, And That They Have No Hope'

March 14, 2024
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 11202

In the weeks preceding the March 1, 2024 elections for the Majlis and Assembly of Experts in Iran, regime officials expended tremendous efforts to encourage Iranians to turn out to vote, issuing numerous statements exhorting them to do so. This is particularly the case in light of last year's massive anti-regime protests following the regime's enforcement of the hijab and the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini, and in light of the many calls to boycott these elections.[1] The reason for this pressure is clear: In its view, low voter turnout delegitimizes the Islamic revolutionary regime.

According to official Iranian regime figures, voter turnout for this month's Majlis election was 41%[2]– the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is likely, however, that the turnout was even lower than reported by the regime. In Tehran, a stronghold of the reformists who had called for a boycott of the elections, voter turnout was historically low, at 25%. Notably, the leading candidate in Tehran garnered fewer votes than any other leading candidate in the past 11 election cycles, despite the city's continuing population growth. He had fewer votes than even the least popular candidate of all 30 candidates in the previous elections in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.[3]

These unprecedentedly low figures have not prevented Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his mouthpieces from declaring the elections a massive success. On March 5, Khamenei called the citizens' turnout to vote "an act of jihad" against "the propaganda of the enemies," who "for the past year... have attempted to deter the nation from voting."

A few days previously, on March 3, the Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan wrote in an article that "another glorious election has gone down in the annals of the Islamic Republic." It added that "the winners" were "the citizens of Iran," while the enemies of Iran, whom it claimed had relentlessly promoted the campaign for an election boycott, were the "main losers."

However, it is noteworthy that in past years, Khamenei has commented that the traditionally low voter turnout in the West, particularly in the U.S. – generally around 40% - is a mark of disgrace, an expression of no confidence in the government, and a symbol of a lack of hope among the people and the failure of the political leadership. The Iranian leadership's response to the failures of its efforts to encourage the people to vote further illustrates the extent to which it is willing to brazenly lie not only to the outside world but to the Iranian public, and to depict events to it in a way that is completely disconnected from reality.

Below are statements by Khamenei in 2001 and by him and regime elements praising the voter turnout for the March 1, 2024 elections.

Khamenei In May 2001 On 40% Voter Turnout In Western Countries: "This Is a Mark Of Disgrace"

In a May 18, 2001 speech, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that voter turnout of 40% is "disgraceful" for a country, and that such low numbers prove that the people "do not trust [the] political system and that they do not care about it, and that they have no hope" for their country's future. He added that it indicated a lack of "national authority." Praising the 70%-80% turnout for elections in Iran that was being reported at that time, he called this "a great honor." He had no idea then that two decades later, Iran would also have low voter turnout, coming in at 41% according to official figures.

The following is a translation of Khamenei's 2001 statements about low voter turnout:

"Presidential elections are an expression of freedom, of the power to choose, and of the growth of the Iranian nation. It is disgraceful for a nation to have 35% or 40% voter turnout, as happens in some of the nations that you see having presidential elections. It is obvious that their people do not trust their political system, that they do not care about it, and that they have no hope.

"Prior to the most recent elections in America, some American citizens were interviewed, and were asked 'Who will you vote for?' They answered: 'What good would that do? What does it matter? [We will vote] for nobody!' And that's what happened. In fact, [only] 35% voted. In Islamic Iran, we had 70%, 75%, 80% of eligible voters [turn out]. This is a great honor. This shows that this nation is standing on its feet, is looking to its interests, and wants to make decisions about them.

"Citizens' participation in elections is one of the most important expressions of national authority. One of the foundations of national authority is that people go to the polling stations, vote, and elect a president... Everybody must participate in this public test of the Iranian nation, and show that it is alive and is interested in the fate of its country... This is a great honor for the Iranian nation... [Voting] is an Islamic duty, a patriotic and national duty. Preserving the honor and prestige of the country depends on this. This is a very important event..."[4]

Khamenei's First Statement Following The March 1, 2024 Elections: "Iran's Citizens Fulfilled A Social And Cultural Duty" – It Was An "Act of Jihad... Against The Propaganda Of The Enemies"

On March 5, 2024, in his first public statement following the elections, Khamenei praised the Iranians' participation in the elections, in complete disregard of the historically low turnout and his statements two decades previously on the subject. He called voting "an act of jihad" against Iran's enemies, and reiterated that it was these enemies that were driving promotion of a boycott of the elections – and not any Iranian disappointment with regard to how the country is being run.

The following are translated excerpts from Khamenei's 2001 statement:

"...I feel a need to mention the important issue of the elections and to thank the Iranian people for their presence at the polls. With this, Iran's citizens fulfilled a social and cultural duty. They performed an act of jihad. Why jihad? Because it was against the propaganda of the enemies.

"For the past year or so, the enemies of the Iranian nation, the enemies of Islamic Iran, and the enemies of the Islamic Republic from all over the world have attempted to deter the nation from voting, in order to foil the elections. In light of this effort on the part of the enemies, the people, with their presence at the polls, did something great and epic. This is why it was an act of jihad..."[5]

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (Source:, March 5, 2024)

Regime Propaganda Published By Tasnim News Agency: "Every Vote Is Like A Missile Fired At The Hearts Of The Enemies"

On Election Day, March 1, the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency published a cartoon echoing the propaganda narrative used by the regime to exhort the citizens to vote. The main theme of this propaganda is that a vote in the elections is a vote against the enemies of Iran, and the cartoon references IRGC commander Hossein Salami's February 29 statement: "Citizens are participating in the elections more than in the past. Every vote is like a missile fired at the hearts of the enemies. Our voting today gives hope to the resistance front and disappoints the enemy."

The cartoon depicts a polling box as a cruise missile pursuing Uncle Sam and an Orthodox Jew with a Star of David on his hat. The box is propelled by ballots representing the ostensible popular support for Iranian regime.[6]

Source: Tasnim News Agency (Iran), March 1, 2024.

Regime Mouthpiece Kayhan Front Page Headline: "The Citizens Countrywide Gladdened Our Friends And Disappointed Our Enemies"

The day after the elections, March 2, 2024, the regime mouthpiece Kayhan, also without addressing the low turnout, called the elections a show of the Iranian citizens' loyalty "to the revolution and the holy regime of the Islamic Republic" and as humiliation for Iran's enemies. The front page report's headline read: "The Citizens Countrywide Gladdened Our Friends And Disappointed Our Enemies."

Kayhan's front page headline stated: "The country's citizens, who are warriors and who are wise, have again humiliated the enemy, via their greatness and their widespread participation in the elections, thus demonstrating their loyalty to the revolution and to the holy regime of the Islamic Republic before our friends and enemies...[7]

Front page of Kayhan the day after the elections (March 2, 2024)

Kayhan: "The Campaign To Boycott The Elections Encountered An Embarrassing Failure"; "The Country's Citizens Surprised And Angered The Enemy"; "Another Glorious Election Has Gone Down In The Annals Of The Islamic Republic"

On the following day, March 3, Kayhan again glorified the elections, with no mention of the 41% voter turnout, and asserted that the boycott campaign had failed miserably despite the efforts of Iran's enemies. It called the elections a "glorious" part of Iran's history.

The following are translated excerpts from the Kayhan article:

"The elections for the 12th Majlis and the sixth Assembly of Experts took place on Friday [March 1, 2024] throughout the country. What is clear and undeniable is that the campaign to boycott the elections encountered an embarrassing failure. The enemy's media outlets tried 24/7 to complete the project of boycotting the elections with an onslaught of reports, but this anti-Iran project encountered a great failure. The official figures about the nation's participation have not yet been published by the authorities, but assessments indicate that 41% of citizens turned out to vote.

"The enemy predicted, in its onslaught of reports [in advance of the elections], that no more than 16% of Iran's citizens would participate in the elections. But the country's citizens surprised and angered the enemy, again proving the extent to which the enemy's manipulation of public opinion is far from reality...

"Another glorious election has gone down in the annals of the Islamic Republic. The winners in this arena were the citizens of Iran and the Islamic Republic, and the main losers were the enemies of the Iranian nation."[8]


[2] Kayhan (Iran), March 3, 2024.

[3] Asr-e Iran (Iran), March 5, 2024.

[4] (Khamenei's official website), May 18, 2001.

[5], March 5, 2024.

[6] Tasnim News Agency (Iran), March 1, 2024.

[7] Kayhan (Iran), March 2, 2024.

[8] Kayhan (Iran), March 3, 2024.

Share this Report:

Help Fight Extremism - Support MEMRI

MEMRI is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax-deductible and kept strictly confidential.