Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday urged Iranians to ignore calls to boycott next month's presidential election, after several hopefuls were barred from running against ultraconservative candidates.
Iranians are set to elect a successor to President Hassan Rouhani on June 18 amid widespread discontent over a deep economic and social crisis.
The exiled opposition has for months run a campaign on social media networks calling on Iranians to stay away from the polls, using hashtags in Persian such as #NototheIslamicRepublic.
"Do not pay attention to those who are campaigning and saying it is useless to go to the polls and that one should not go to the polls," Khamenei told lawmakers in a speech via videoconference, according to his official Instagram account.
His declaration comes a day after Rouhani said he had asked the supreme leader to intervene to ensure greater "competition" in the presidential election.
Iran's candidate-vetting Guardian Council on Tuesday approved seven mainly ultraconservative hopefuls to run in the election and disqualified moderate conservative Ali Larijani.
The council, a conservative-dominated, unelected body also barred firebrand former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Its decision appears to clear the way for a strong run by ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.
Rouhani is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term.
A record 57 percent of Iranians stayed away from legislative elections in February last year after thousands of candidates, many of them moderates and reformists, were disqualified.
The poll comes at a critical time for Iran amid talks with world powers aimed at reviving a nuclear deal that has been on life support since former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018