The European Union has criticised the recent parliamentary elections in Iran as a "setback for democracy".
Voting in Iran's general election has ended with hardliners set to triumph.
Polling was said to be steady at several stations in Tehran, although nothing like the crowds seen in previous elections.
There has been political turmoil in Iran since the disqualification of thousands of reformist candidates by the hardline Council of Guardians
What did you think of the elections in Iran? What is the best way forward for the country?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:
I really was hoping that people in Iran wouldn't vote in this sham election. Although a very low turnout would still send the conservatives to the parliament but it would also send a strong message of a major discontent among Iranians especially the young generation and their seriousness and willingness to change the regime.
That is a very difficult question. When you are forced to lose, how do you gain the best benefit? Low turnout might send a message, they might not. Those people have been placed in a situation that most of us will never have to face, and in our most vivid imaginings, have never had to think through to the end result.
Sternberg, Mauldin, USA
Those who want reform in this backwards theocracy should turn out and spoil their ballots. Unfortunately, for the free-thinkers the world over, these farcical regimes still exist in the 21st century. Sad but true.
Jason Smith, Toronto, Canada
The elections are being turned into a farce reminiscent of elections held in former Communist countries with "one party" candidates. Voting in these elections is an expression of the acceptance of the totalitarian regime.
Jurgen W Schulze, Miami, USA
The classic Catch 22. If the reformists abstain, the ruling party appears to have a relatively unopposed mandate. If they vote their choices are limited and their candidates in many cases barred. If they are to keep the integrity of their cause they in all probability have to boycott the elections.
No! In this case not voting is really voting. Since there is no real choice it is better not to vote. The new "elected" politicians will not have legitimacy and everyone inside and outside of Iran will know it.
Daniel Sullivan, NYC USA
We should vote to show the world that we are united Iranian. We are experiencing how to choose our leaders, and we are choosing our leader better than American after 200 years voting experience. Thank you
Kazem Atighetchi, Ottawa Canada
As an exile living in the West, I can tell you that this government in Iran is unfair and will not allow for true reform. Just like Iranian Muslims, I love my country as well and can't wait until I can return to my country
Bashir Bar Yahuda, Jewish Iranian in USA
Isn't it painfully obvious that at this point in time, religion just has no room in politics? Judging from what I've read, it seems to me the Iranian people want a change, one in which Islam takes a backseat to their everyday freedoms. Why do these MPs refuse to acknowledge the will of their own people?
Matt, New York City, USA
Iranians shouldn't take part in the votes, we Iranians have been trying to overthrow this government for over 20 years. We don't have the freedom like other nations do. Those who want true freedom shouldn't vote. Its more than just a crisis, its fundamentalism here in Iran that infuriates those who are seeking freedom. The Iranian people are interested in freedom. we need help from other powerful countries too.
Felix, Iran, Tehran
It is also the responsibility of the free world to participate in promoting democracy for citizen┐s of the earth by not recognizing the governments that get into office in countries that call themselves democratic but have not been elected with a majority vote and at least a 50 % of valid voter┐s participation.
Despite the current political impasse, with its parliament, its presidency, its elections, its open public debate, its relatively free press and the freedom it gives its woman including the right to vote, seek higher education (60% of all uni students are woman), hold public office, ware make up as well as show their faces and increasingly even their hair in public, Iran is actually the most liberal and democratic Muslim majority state in the Middle East!!!
Hassan, Melbourne, Australia
I as an Iranian believe that there is no alternative for Iranian people and they should cope with the Islamic Government in Iran which is trying its best to keep Iran stable. In order to support the Iranian leaders people of Iran should vote in these elections.
Ali, Newcastle, UK
Iranians must not take part in the elections because its almost certain that the disqualifications of pro-reform leaders meant to stop the reform process and lead country toward fundamentalism. Which is against the wishes of the people.
Shujat Ali, Karachi, Pakistan
This is not an election but actually a selection, so what's the use in taking part?
Afsane, Mashhad, Iran
There was a reason for the 1979 revolution. Iran is not going back to the pre-revolution era.
Jasil Diravi, Ontario, Canada
The only reason the US has decided to get involved is because Iran is of strategic importance because of its natural resources and location. Otherwise, this electoral problem would have been solved long ago. The US should stop magnifying the problem and should also end its encouragement of revolts through the media.
Mosil Hemdani, Quebec, Canada
In Iran, it is way past the time for the torch of power to be transferred from the old to the new generation. Even if that means prying it from their cold stiff hands.
Daniel Pokorny, US
I think its time to get real here. Allah will want the people of Iran to decide their own destiny not the mullahs.
Mala Shah, Shipley, UK
I think all of the people of Iran who have a vote should vote. But if the candidate is not on the ballot that they want, they should spoil the ballot with the name of the person or political party they want to vote for. The spoilt ballot statistics would clearly stand out as a message to the leaders of the country. Equally if people want to vote for the hardliners, then this too would be clear to the world.
Gary Russell, Peterborough, England
NO! These elections are just democratic window dressing for a theocracy. Taking part in this charade will only increase its legitimacy.
Robert Arisz, Amsterdam
The Western media again displays its love for blowing a domestic Iranian issue, out of global proportion. Every opportunity to condemn Iran will be gladly taken. Why have we not heard of the political domestic troubles of Brazil, Cuba, Morocco, Canada and every other country - of course all countries have domestic political problems! Yes, this Iranian issue can certainly be resolved, why do we not leave them to it as opposed to sticking our noses in everywhere they do not belong - and are not welcome.
Muhammed Reza Tajri, London, UK
To Muhammed Reza Tajri: I don't believe the west is interfering for once. The mistake the west has made is showing support for reformists, but that has damaged the reformists' position within Iran. Unfortunately it is assumed that any criticism of the Iranian government is a criticism of Islam which is not the case. I genuinely feel sorry for people in Iran that love their country, but are ruled by relatively few with vested interests.
Paul, Northampton, UK
I think that the west should do more to encourage the brave people of Iran in their struggle for freedom and democracy. Our media should stop talking about "reformists" vs "hardliners". The reality there is very different, people are fed up with the theocracy and they want the mullahs out of politics altogether. Sooner or later the brave people of Iran will stand up and topple the ayatollahs as other peoples have done with their totalitarian regimes. Go on brave people of Iran, all freedom lovers around the world look at you and want you to succeed.
Andrea Baucero, Milano, Italy
I am a fifteen year old girl from the new generation in Iran. I am not happy with this regime and their attitude towards the young people. I am forced to do what the mullahs want me to do, like covering my hair. I want to ask all the parents in Iran not to vote to a dictatorial regime of mullahs. I am not their puppet and they shouldn't control my life.
Laleh Mashayekhi, Shiraz, Iran
I am one of the young girls who voted for Mr Khatami six years ago because I had my hopes on him. When he became our president we lost our hopes on him. It was bad, he made it worse. So many newspapers closed, so many writers imprisoned. So many students lost their opportunities. What has Mr Khatami done? Nothing. How can we trust them? My eyes are open now and I know that they are mullahs after all.
It is the pressure from the US and the European countries that makes this regime change and not the votes of the Iranian people alone.
This can be a defining moment for Iran if the reformers make it a matter of survival and not compromise. Contrary to many perceptions a compromise would only lengthen the stay of the hardliners and would not be a victory for the reformers in the long run. The winds of change have a habit of visiting every nation from time to time. I think the people of Iran should prepare themselves for another such visit.
Sajid Khan, Boston, USA
The 'reformers' are secular troublemakers who are challenging Allah. 'Western democracy' with its myriad candidates is just a devil's trick. Real democracy is only possible under religious law.
To Ibrahim: It's easy for you to talk about Allah and things like that living in London. Go to Iran for a bit - see the economic disaster, and taste the jails of Allah. You will change your mind. I am sad to see this trick about the Persian parliament. Where were the MPs when the students were beaten to death in June 2003? How can we talk about 'reformists' when things have only worsened in all fields in Iran for more than 24 years? We, Iranians, have no more illusions. We have been fooled for too long time.
A dictatorship is still a dictatorship no matter what colour you paint it.
Jerry Wampole, Sacramento, CA USA
There's no space for reformists in modern Iran.
Dharm, Karachi, Pakistan
The so called Supreme leader should step down along with his fellow Mullahs and council if they have an ounce of humanity in them. Any intervention from the Islamic fundamentalist would be for his own personal power hold and financial benefit. I am an Iranian who's family decided to leave our homeland because of lack of freedoms of all types. Iranians abroad long to return to their motherland. We didn't ask for Islam. We were forced to accept it after the invasion. But many of us never did.
Amir Shams, Toronto, Canada
I read all the notes and only one correctly stated that this is a game plan between the so-called reformers and hard liners. The hard liners will back down to create an illusion that people are represented by these so called reform minded, but now approved ones. These people have kept these regime in power for many years through these type of theatrical games. I am deeply sorry that everyone buys into it.
Mahmood F, California
This is a natural process of evolution that all democratic governments go through. Let's remember that even the US, one of the most democratic governments in the world, went through a period when candidates were disqualified. Let the people of Iran be thankful that they live in a country where they can freely voice their opinions. When the US was only decades old, it had laws that prohibited people from saying or writing anything that criticized the government.
The Ayatollah has made a good decision by allowing all legal channels to be exhausted before he steps in to resolve the argument.
Sayyed Muhammad Naqvi, USA
Iran is an excellent example of what some scholars call 'liberal autocracies,' countries which apply only cosmetic democratic reform, such as the holding of 'free and fair elections,' when truly, only an unelected few hold any real power. The international community needs to start distinguishing between democracies and these so-called liberal autocracies, in order to identify how best to assist them in turning institutional change into representative and functional change.
Julie, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
It seems to me that the Ayatollah is no different than any other ruler who uses their position to keep their position. If he is the true leader of the people, let him face "election" by holding true elections and see if the people go for reformists or Guardian Council candidates. My guess is reformists would win!!
I think the Guardian Council is a supervisory body which has the power to disqualify the candidates for parliament, but this time the case is different. I talked with so many people who have no desire to vote, so they (the Guardian Council) thought up this trick to encourage the people to vote on large scale. In conclusion I believe this crisis will be resolved .
Saleh, Tehran, Iran
I myself don't trust them anymore. I think all of this is some kind of exaggerated propaganda, to make people feel that reformists are under pressure. The next stage would be accepting some of them by the government. In this way, they may stimulate some people to go and vote for their so called suppressed candidates. And that will only be a great achievement for the government to announce that people have freely participated in determining their destiny. Another tenure of four years would be enough to choose the appropriate trick for the next election.
Iran has an enormous population of frustrated and eager young people waiting to re-make their country into a nation with a broader vision of the world - an identity founded on freedom and democracy. I hope they succeed. If anything proves that a theocracy doesn't work in the long-run Iran has proved it - with its hunger for change.
The Ayatollah has done well to state clearly that he is willing to let legal procedures be exhausted before he intervenes. In this way he will not be overriding the authority of legal institutions within the nation.
Prashanth Parameswaran, Malaysia
One of your reporters writes:
"Ayatollah Khamenei has said the controversy must be resolved through legal channels." I wonder who happens to control those legal channels in Iran? The last time I checked, Iran wasn't quite up to British legal standards - post-Enlightenment separation of the Law and Religion. For all of the editorialising being done at the BBC these days, why isn't a statement like this pounced upon for the vacuousness that it represents?
Mark Onyschuk, Toronto, Canada
The story of Iran is the story of the book "Animal Farm" (by G. Orwell). Words and power come out of the barrels of guns. This so-called "election" is just a show for the rest of the world. It has no real meaning inside the country. Those who hold the real power will never leave peacefully. Too much money and power is at stake. They must be ousted with force and this unfortunately would mean more bloodshed. But who should replace them? Other dictators? The people in power are not foreigners. They are supposed to be Iranian. The real culprit is the culture and the society, which produces these kinds of ruthless rulers. The biggest problem and the biggest task ahead of Iran is to re-educate the people. To stop them from producing mullahs. To stop them from believing that the answer to everything lies in religion. Once this is done everything else falls into place.
Ardavan G, Lausanne, Switzerland
I really don't care who is qualified and who is not. I decided not to vote. During these 6 years nothing changed. Where were these people (MPs) when we were in the street, demonstrating against Ayatollah's rules? They are just part of this system, and we don't want this system anymore. How many more times should we say this? We are SICK of these nonsense political games. You want to know what will happen? Khamenei will interfere and everything will be solved! And of course he will say "god told me to interfere!". How romantic.
Ario Barzan, Esfahan, Iran
Years have passed and we haven't seen anything happen to improve our country. Iranian people are waking up and they know that the only thing this government don't care about is them. When I say government, I mean both parties. They are from one root. It is just another mullah's trick to stay in power.
Puri Aliakbari, Tehran, Iran
Situations like this are part of the process of democratic evolution in Iran. As a nation we are maturing in democratic processes. I think the conservatives will have to climb down if only to save themselves. This will strengthen the reformists and encourage others to join the political process. I just hope there will be a large turn out voting more reformers in. I am confident through the political evolution the conservatives will be a minority soon. And eventually the mullahs will leave politics. Only in this way Iran can emerge as a free and democratic country. American intervention or mass persecution of all mullahs is not in the long term interest of the nation.
Javad Chakmagi, Wilmslow, England.
They should have done this at least four years ago, when hardliners attacked students. Now it seems to be late, although the democratic way of protest is appreciable. If reformers want to get national support they should ask about something beyond disqualification of MP's. I think it would be the end of the reformist movement in Iran if the protesters compromise on their own desires. Demand for the change of constitution could be one of the major request of those MPs who are protesting.
Rouhi Farajzadeh, Ahar, Iran
Reading many of the comments from people inside Iran, I wish I could do something for them. However, it's going to be up to them to change there Government. They will have to make sacrifices. I also hope the rest of the world reads many of these comments and realize what freedom actually represents.
Mike Daly, Hackettstown, NJ - USA
It is wrong to suggest that the current Iranian system has no popular support. It may be difficult for those educated into western political values to imagine, but many others remain unconvinced that the separation of 'church' and 'state' is a prerequisite of just governance. Whoever is in power, and however they get there, they will end up using that power in ways that others wish they didn't. What most people want and need is fair and effective government, and no one has yet discovered a guaranteed formula for that.
'Theocracy vs. democracy' is a false dichotomy that sounds good to those who build their political vision around slogans, but has little relevance in real life.
Julian, Brighton, UK
From BBC Persian.com:These immoral and corrupt people who have done nothing but chant slogans, should not be approved to run in the elections. Lawmakers should be religious with expertise in politics, economy and social affairs.
Jaseb Mousavi, Ahvaz, Iran
From BBC Persian.com:Neither the president, nor the parliament has done anything for the people. We will not vote for any factions.
Mohammad Hosseni, Tehran, Iran
From BBC Persian.com:Reformist or not reformist, both are the same, like the poles of a magnet.
S A, Tehran, Iran
From BBC Persian.com:This is just a puppet show to take people to the ballot boxes, by persuading people to vote.
Pouya Jahandar, Tehran, Iran
From BBC Persian.com: As the reformists have missed the opportunities for six years and ignored the people for the sake of their own interests, nobody cares about what happens to them. In fact, neither the reformists nor the conservatives hold any values among people, so that would never risk their lives for them. I see their sitting protest as a political game. It is a power struggle with no intention to solve people's problems.
Davood Tajzadeh, Tehran, Iran
Human beings in any part of the world have the God-given right to express themselves without the hindrance of self-appointed representatives of the Almighty. Freedom of expression to Iran !!!
Ali Pahlavi, London, United Kingdom
Throughout history no regime or government has been around forever, and if they don't have the public support, they will be collapse at a much faster pace.
AliReza, Stockholm, Sweden
There is no point in resignation of the government. All the Mullahs have to go. A country cannot be run by some turbaned theologists and dictators. People of Iran want a democratic and secular regime!
Bijan, Leeds, England
As an American who lived in Iran for 15 years although I don't support the theocracy. I would like to see the reformers follow the legal process. The hardliners have created many laws for their own convenience while never standing by any laws once their own stake is in the middle. Their reason is that what they are doing is what Allah wants and his law/will is above all laws. The reformers should stick to the legal process or they will become just like their foes. Mass resignation sounds very legal to me.
Saffar, Cincinnati, Ohio
If the Georgians could overthrow their dictatorial regime peacefully so can the people of Iran. I hope they make their move soon.
The people of Iran are sick and tired of religious dictatorship and want the way paved for a free and fair election.
Farhad, London, England
Reformists should have done this a few years ago when they had the public support. Now it's late and I guess the nation will not act seriously to support them. Iranians are now some steps ahead of governmental reformists and would like a real democracy not a controlled Islamic one. I believe that there eventually will be a compromise between left/right wings. However, this will not encourage people to attend that election party at all. The recent sad earthquake of Bam definitely showed that this regime, in total and not only conservatives, is completely incompetence to rule a country like Iran.
Reza Alavi, Iran
Iranians in Iran don't care about reformist v. hard-liner. Reformists haven't been popular since 2001, majority of student groups don't support them and hardly anyone supports the hard-liners.
The masses support a Secular democracy, by pushing this row the hard-liners are risking a total revolution.
They better be careful.
Ali Reza Rowhani, Tehran, Iran
While the current impasse may be resolved, the root of this problem never will, not while an unelected few hold power over those in a democratic process. The people of Iraq should pay close attention, a theocracy does not work, especially in a religion of unequal rights and limited freedoms.
L Miller, Los Angeles, CA
Iran is at its growth phase. The people of Iran have gone through hardships and will continue to do so until the core of the society is well educated and informed about the outcome of different ruling regimes; as they have learned about the previous regime. The people of Iran have experienced foreign occupation, monarchy and are experiencing religious theocracy. When this phase is complete the society will be fully matured to establish a secular government that will manage the country based on principles of business and laws of market. A government that will respect religion and religious beliefs of all kind and will acknowledge that religion is a private matter.
People will soon realize that Gods representation on earth is within their hearts and soul. God is represented by nature, not by Mankind. Nature will follow its due course and people and societies at large will adapt accordingly during this process. Let's hope for the best.
Mina Roshanfekr, Ontario, Canada
Going through motions of the democratic process does not change the fact the Iran is a theocracy. The elections seem like a moot point to me since the council of guardians are loath to give up any power. No surprise that the Iranians cannot be bothered to vote. The charade is adding insult to injury.
Robert Arisz, Amsterdam
This is a game plan between parties in a dictatorship regime. People don't believe in it and do not care about it.
Ali, Iran, Tehran
History will once again repeat itself in Iran. In the same manner that the Shah was deposed due to his autocratic rule, the clerical regime will face a similar fate. This will pave the way for Iran having a liberal representative democracy based on the Rule of Law.
Mohsen E, London, UK
Its a very tough position for Khatami and the other reformers to play. On one hand, they are the priests' fig leaf, helping create the perception that Iran has democracy when it doesn't. Quitting would be the only honest thing to do. On the other hand, without the reformers, limited as they are, what hope do people have for change? Religious government is not only an anachronism, it also concentrates too much power in too few hands and has too little accountability. That spells trouble every time.
Ross Larsen, London
The election row can only be resolved when the mullahs are brought to justice for their crimes (as it is for other totalitarian dictators) and when the Iranians would give up Islam and go back to their real Persian roots. At this point it seems that unfortunately the "democratic means" will not work and Iran must go through a shake-up.
Ramin, Tehran, Iran
As a faithful Iranian I am hoping that my country will evolve. However, from an educated person's standpoint, my opinion is that there will never be democracy or free elections in Iran until the supreme leader is deposed, the guardian council disbanded, and a clear separation of church and state. The Iranian parliament is a farce. Iran is in every respect a dictatorship - not unlike Saddam's regime, albeit less ruthless and tyrannical. Sadly, the motive for control over Iran is really economic and not religious. The Guardian council says they are preserving Islam but any informed person knows that that is a lie. They are trying to preserve their vested interest in the economy and continue to profit while the population suffers in poverty. I doubt Mohammed would approve. Let the people judge how "Islamic" the ruling clerics are for a change!
Baz, London, UK
If these people are have done nothing wrong why should they be barred from standing in an election? In the end it is those who vote who will decide whether they are fit to represent them. If you unfairly bar part of the community you only build up resentment which will tear a country apart, this should be a time of reconciliation and solidarity within Iran especially as certain Americans will be looking for an excuse for military conquest before their presidential elections; nothing has changed politically from the time of Rome - conquest always goes down well with the public
This standoff will continue until the Iranian people are able to rule themselves. The government is being run by people who might have been supported in their rise to power by the local populace, but the Iranian public doesn't appear to support them or their ideology. It is not good for Iran to have a revolution every quarter of a century and that is why I hope the unelected clerics will submit themselves to the will of the electorate, rather than continuing to cling onto their power.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)
I hope and pray that the supreme leader and the guardian council see where Iran is heading and voluntarily give up power before the country implodes. I am all for an advisory council to help guide the government, but an unelected body should not keep power. I fear they will remain stubborn and keep the country in chaos.
Nadeem Hhaikh, London, UK
I believe the election in Iran is just a game. They vote for themselves and they don't accept people's voting. It is just another cat and mouse play by conservative hard liners and reformists. They are together in this play and the people in Iran are awake and they don't accept these lies any more. As an Iranian student, even if it did come to an election, I would never vote to either of these parties for your information.
Mina Tahmasebi Pour, Iran
By asking the question "Should the Ayatollah intervene?" there is an implication that somehow Khamenei has a potentially constructive role to play. In fact he is the main opponent of liberty in Iran and the most powerful advocate for the Iranian police state. He and his associates rule through the threat of violence and other types of punishment and intimidation such as barring people from jobs. Clerical rule is the problem not part of the solution.
Will McElgin, Chicago USA
Will McElgin seems to be badly informed. In fact "Supreme Leader" Khamenei is relatively liberal. However, far from being "supreme", his power to make any real reform is severely constrained by hardliners such as the "Guardian Council". Let's hope that the Iranian people can curb the hardliners' powers and achieve real, independent democracy.
Merlin Cox, London, UK
It's interesting how governments seem to almost universally get lost in their own greed for either power or money, and forget their own roots. Begun in "revolution against an oppressive dictatorial regime", the Iranian Mullahs have become the same thing themselves. They are probably fairly close to the danger point of being overthrown themselves by the very people and exact same process that put them into the government in the first place.
Mike, Atlanta, US