Iran: Voter Turnout Dips Below 50% 02/23 09:43
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's interior ministry on Sunday said
voter turnout in last week's parliamentary elections stood at 42.57%, the
lowest ever in decades, in a possible sign of widespread dissatisfaction with
Iran's clerical rulers and the state of the economy amid intense pressure from
the United States.
In comparison, turnout was nearly 62% in the 2016 elections. Turnout has
consistently been above 50% since the country's Islamic Revolution some four
Voters also 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 hard-liners won all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran, state TV
Iran's supreme leader and other senior officials had urged people to cast
their ballots Friday as a show of resistance in the face of U.S. sanctions that
have plunged the economy into recession.
The elections took place under the threat of the coronavirus that originated
in China. Iran reported its first cases and deaths of the virus two days before
the national polls, and many voters wore face masks as they cast their ballots.
The virus has killed eight people in Iran and infected 43 people across five
cities, including Tehran.
The lower turnout is widely seen as a measure of how Iranians view their
government. Some voters who chose not to cast ballots expressed apathy in the
process and said the government had been unable to stymie the effects of
punishing U.S. sanctions on the country.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said the lowest turnout from the
vote was in the capital, Tehran, with just 25.4% of eligible voters casting
ballots. He said the country voted under less-than-ideal circumstances, and
pointed to the spread of the virus as one example, but said nevertheless, "we
believe that the number of votes and the turnout is absolutely acceptable."
A range of crises has beset Iran in the past year, including widespread
anti-government protests in November sparked by a rise in prices. There were
also protests after the accidental downing of a passenger jet by Iran's
Revolutionary Guard amid heightened tensions with the U.S. in January.
Authorities initially tried to cover up the cause of the crash.
President Hassan Rouhani had criticized the disqualification of so many
moderates by the conservative Guardian Council, which is presided over by
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Rouhani said the disqualification was akin to
customers being told they have options but being offered just one brand at a
store. Still, in the days leading up to the election, he joined the chorus of
official voices urging people to vote.
Iran's supreme leader on Sunday accused enemy "propaganda" of trying to
dissuade people from voting by amplifying the threat of the coronavirus.
"Their media did not ignore the tiniest opportunity for discouraging people
and resorting to the pretext of diseases and the virus," he said in remarks
from his office in Tehran.
On the eve of the vote in Iran, the Trump administration sanctioned a number
of election officials, including the 92-year-old cleric who heads the Guardian
Council that vets candidates. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the
election as a "sham."
Nearly 58 million Iranians, out of a population of more than 80 million, are
eligible to vote. More than 24 million voted. Almost half, or 48%, were women.
State TV 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.
The vote took place as concerns over the virus' spread began to rise.
Coronavirus clusters in Iran as well as in Italy and South Korea could
signal a serious new stage in the global spread of the virus.
Starting Sunday, schools were shut down in Tehran and across 10 provinces
for at least two days to prevent the spread of the virus. Authorities have
stopped fans from attending soccer matches and closed movie theaters and other
venues across the country until Friday. Tehran University also suspended
classes and shuttered its dormitories.
Masks, sanitizers and plastic gloves have become scarce or their prices have
soared in many drug stores in the capital due to high demand.
Iran is already facing diplomatic and economic isolation by Washington. The
virus threatens to isolate Iran even further, with some countries now barring
their citizens from traveling there.
Infected travelers from Iran have been discovered in Lebanon and Canada.
Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have effectively barred Iranians from entry,
impacting thousands of religious pilgrims and businessmen. Turkey said Sunday
it would close its border with Iran and halt all flights from its eastern
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
In his meeting with the Austrian foreign minister, Rouhani quipped that U.S.
sanctions on Iran "are like the coronavirus" causing more fear than the
reality, the official IRNA news agency reported. He urged Europe to resist U.S.
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 U.S. withdrew from the landmark deal.