Youth participation important in Iran presidential vote: official

Tehran (AFP) –


The spokesman for Iran's influential Guardian Council stressed Wednesday the importance of youth representation in the country's presidential election next month.

Iran is "going through a generational change," said Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee, spokesman for the powerful conservative-dominated body that is responsible for vetting and validating candidates.

"The entry of young people (into politics) is also important in our view and can be a promise that our youth... play a role at higher levels of the executive branch" of the government, he told AFP in an interview at his office.

Iran will vote on June 18 for a successor to President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate.

The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has in recent months urged for high turnout, expressing hope that this would encourage the emergence of new young leaders, as the generation who oversaw the country's 1979 revolution is ageing.

National census data from 2016-17 showed 49 percent of Iran's population -- now estimated at around 83 million -- to be under 30.

More than 20 public figures have officially announced their intention to run as of Wednesday, but several top political figures, including former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have yet to say whether or not they will run.

Rouhani himself is unable to take part as the constitution prohibits the president from running after serving two consecutive terms.

The period for submitting nominations to the Guardian Council is from May 11-15.

Voter turnout in part "depends on the activities of the candidates," said Kadkhodaee.

A record 57 percent of Iranians stayed away from legislative elections in February last year in which thousands of candidates, many of them moderates and reformists, were disqualified.

"Maybe some individual's presence can increase the turnout or their lack of presence does not affect the turnout much," he said, without referring to any potential candidate.

But the spokesman said he did not expect the rate "would be any lower than it has been before".

"The higher the number of votes the better, but legally speaking, if someone did win (with a low turnout) it does not mean that that candidate does not have legitimacy," Kadkhodaee added.