Conservatives take lead after Iran election sees low turnout

This is a blow to President Rouhani’s moderate faction

February 22, 2020 09:34 pm | Updated 09:34 pm IST - Tehran

A woman casting her vote in Tehran on Friday.

A woman casting her vote in Tehran on Friday.

Conservatives took an early lead on Saturday as the first results of Iran’s parliamentary election came in, boosted by a predicted low turnout following the disqualification of nearly half the candidates.

Friday’s election followed months of steeply escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S. Voters had been widely expected to shun the polls, disillusioned by unfulfilled promises and struggling to cope in a country whose economy has buckled under harsh U.S. sanctions.

Mass disqualification

About half of the 16,000-odd candidates were disqualified. Among them were many reformist and moderate candidates — including dozens of sitting MPs — leaving conservatives with virtually no competition. By midday (0830 GMT) on Saturday, votes had been counted in 71 constituencies out of 208, according to National Elections Committee figures reported by semi-official news agency ISNA.

Tehran is the biggest catch in the election with 30 seats. The conservative and ultra-conservative alliance appeared to have a comfortable edge in the capital in early results, the committee’s spokesman Esmail Mousavi said on state television. Most votes went to the first three names on the alliance’s list, he said.

Final results for both the capital and other provinces would be announced by early Sunday at the latest, he added. If the results are confirmed, it will mean President Hassan Rouhani’s slender majority of reformists and moderates elected with fanfare four years ago is nearly purged.

An unofficial tally published by Fars news agency said 183 of Parliament’s 290 seats had already been decided, with conservative candidates winning 135 of them. Reformists were a distant second at 20, it said, adding independents had won 28 seats.

Turnout was estimated at around 40% nationwide and 30% in Tehran at the scheduled close of polls on Friday, according to Fars.

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