TEHRAN - Days before Islamic Republic's general elections, Iranian candidates are stepping up their religious rhetoric exhorting Islamic values to win hearts of voters.
"Ahmadinejad's allies are momentarily putting aside their differences with the (supreme) leader only for the sake of more votes," a political analyst in Tehran told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Iranian voters will go to polling stations on Friday, March 2, to elect a new parliament, the first since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
The vote campaigning has been marked by increased rhetoric extolling Islamic values as Western pressure mounts on Tehran over its nuclear program.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's image and words dominate Tehran billboards.
"Elections are a sign of a nation's livelihood and awareness," Khamenei states on one above one of the city's busy highways.
The same banners were used by Ahmadinejad's campaign to encourage voters to participate in the ballot.
"They want to create an image that suggests the two men are very close," the analyst said.
Tensions between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad surfaced last year when the president tried to sack his intelligence minister.
After boycotting his own office for several days in protest, the president returned to work.
Since then, those loyal to Khamenei have used every opportunity to undermine Ahmadinejad, accusing him of challenging the supreme leader's authority and being under the spell of a "deviant current" that has attempted to dilute the Islamic nature of Iran's government.
But many Iranians are frustrated with the election as the country's economic woes get worse.
"There is no election this time," a second Tehran-based analyst told Reuters.
"This is the coldest election ever. There is no competition and this election is not about the voters. It is about those counting the votes."
Leading reformist candidates have boycotted Friday's vote, leaving rival conservatives loyal to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to battle it out.
"Although the Iranian nation is unpredictable, there is a high chance that many people in large cities will stay away from the vote," the analyst said.
With signs the turnout in major cities could be low, officials have predicted a turnout of around 60 percent.
Member of Parliament Masoud Pezeshkian said more had to be done to get voters' attention.
"Universities and mosques should become a debating ground between candidates to create more excitement over the vote," Pezeshkian was quoted as saying by the Iranian Student News Agency.
The decision by Iranian reformists to boycott the vote has consolidated the feeling that a "free and fair" election will not be met.
"I will not cast my vote," said 53-year-old Fakhri Hooshmandi in Tehran.
"Even if I wanted to, I wouldn't know who to vote for. There are not many election posters in the streets."
Yet, there are signs that regular messages broadcast by state media urging Iranians to cast their vote and defy the country's "enemies" are having an effect.
"I'm still not certain about voting," said 46-year-old Ali, a wealthy businessman educated in the United States."I don't believe my vote would really count but if our abstention encourages Iran's enemies to wage a war, then I will vote but for someone who's critical of Ahmadinejad."