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How some Iranians are mobilizing to get voters off the couch

Amid hot contests with Principlist rivals and mass disqualifications of candidates, Iranian Reformists face a boycott campaign and voter apathy ahead of key polls.
An Iranian woman gestures as she attends a reformist campaign for upcoming parliamentary election, in Tehran February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY.  - RTX27K9Y

TEHRAN, Iran — For years, a boycott has been proposed by opposition groups on the eve of every election in Iran. The idea is neither new nor necessarily related to the disputed 2009 presidential election and its aftermath. Rather, it goes back to the 1997 presidential election, which resulted in the coming to power of Reformist Mohammad Khatami.

Around that time, certain groups believed that the election's results were predetermined and that conservative candidate Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri would, without a doubt, become the next president of Iran. As a result, some opposition groups boycotted the elections and advocated not showing up at the polling booths at all. The number of Iranians who endorsed this strategy, however, was evidently not large. Indeed, polls later showed that some 80% of eligible voters did in fact vote. Nevertheless, as time went by, the idea of boycotting elections as a political statement gained more support, and with the expansion of mass and social media, boycott proponents became better able to present their point of view to the public.

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