Iran’s state TV: Hardliners win all seats for Tehran in vote
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Iran’s state TV: Hardliners win all seats for Tehran in vote

As results announced for 30 representatives of capital in parliament, interior minister says voter turnout was 42.6%, calling it ‘acceptable’

In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, February 23, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)
In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, February 23, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian hardliners have won all 30 parliamentary seats in the capital, Tehran, state TV reported on Sunday, but officials have yet to announce the voter turnout from the nationwide elections two days ago.

State TV also said that former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, a top contender for the post of parliamentary speaker, was the top winner in the capital, with more that 1.2 million votes.

Voters had limited options on Friday’s ballot, as more than 7,000 potential candidates had been disqualified, most of them reformists and moderates. Among those disqualified were 90 sitting members of Iran’s 290-seat Parliament who had wanted to run for re-election.

Iran’s interior minister said on Sunday that 42.6 percent of eligible voters had turned out at the country’s parliamentary election.

Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said the participation rate was “acceptable” for Iran after it experienced bad weather, an air disaster, a coronavirus outbreak and other incidents in the lead-up to Friday’s election.

The turnout is widely seen as a measure of how Iranians view the country’s embattled theocratic government. The low turnout could signal widespread dissatisfaction with Iran’s clerical rulers and the system they preside over.

A voter registers to cast her vote during the parliament elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, February 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s supreme leader early Sunday accused enemy “propaganda” of trying to dissuade people from voting by amplifying the threat of the coronavirus.

A range of crises has beset Iran in the past year, including widespread anti-government protests in November and US sanctions piling pressure on the plunging economy.

On the eve of the vote in Iran, the Trump administration sanctioned five election officials and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the election as a “sham.”

In remarks from his office in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the “negative propaganda” of Iran’s enemies for trying to discourage people from voting in Friday’s elections.

“Their media did not ignore the tiniest opportunity for discouraging people and resorting to the pretext of diseases and the virus,” he said.

Iranians, some wearing protective masks, wait to cross a street in the capital Tehran on February 22, 2020 (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran reported its first case of the virus two days before the national polls, and eight deaths have been reported due to the virus since then. That’s the highest death toll from the virus outside of China, where the outbreak first emerged a couple months ago.

Iran has confirmed 43 cases in total in at least five different cities, including the capital, Tehran, where some pharmacies have already run out of masks and hand sanitizer.

Schools were shut down in Tehran and across 10 provinces for at least two days, starting Sunday, to prevent the spread of the virus. Authorities have also suspended football matches and stopped shows in movie theaters and other venues.

Officials across Iran had encouraged people to vote in the days leading up to the election, even as concerns over the virus’ spread began to rise.

Medical staff checking passengers arriving from Iran in the airport in Najaf, Iraq, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Anmar Khalil)

Iraq and Pakistan, which share borders with Iran, have taken preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus from Iranian travelers. Infected travelers from Iran already have been discovered in Lebanon and Canada.

Saudi Arabia ordered anyone traveling from Iran to wait at least 14 days before entering the kingdom as it seeks to prevent the spread of the virus to the Muslim pilgrimage sites of Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile, the official IRNA news agency said ballot counting had come to an end on Sunday, with 201 out of 208 constituencies decided. The seven relatively smaller constituencies will be decided in a run-off election later in April.

Also on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joked about shaking hands with his visiting Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg and told reporters: “We have to shake hands with them, don’t worry I don’t have coronavirus.”

In his meeting with the Austrian foreign minister, President Hassan Rouhani quipped that US sanctions on Iran “are like the coronavirus” causing more fear than the reality, the official IRNA news agency reported. He urged Europe to resist US pressure.

Schallenberg is in Tehran amid efforts by European countries to keep alive Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers. Regional tensions have steadily risen since the US withdrew from the landmark deal.

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