Conservatives are ahead as Iran counts the votes of its parliamentary election. Rising coronavirus-related fatalities and general voter frustration could mean a record-low turnout for this election.
Conservatives surged ahead as the results of Iran's parliamentary elections trickled in early Sunday, against a backdrop of mounting coronavirus-related fatalities in the country.
Candidates representing the conservative and ultra-conservative parties are widely expected to win in a national election marked by the lowest voter turnout since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Around half of some 16,000 candidates — mostly reformists and moderates — were barred from participating in the national elections, including dozens of sitting politicians.
The move left the conservative and ultra-conservative candidates running essentially unchallenged.
Their likely victory would mean the end to President Hassan Rouhani's slim reformist and moderate majority, which was elected amid much excitement nearly four years ago.
Final results are expected on Sunday.
Disillusionment and frustration
Turnout in the country's parliamentary election was around 42%, said Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. Around 24 million people out of 58 million eligible voters participated in Friday's election.
Poll closing was extended by six hours on Friday in order to give people more time to vote.
Both experts and Iranians themselves pointed to the struggling economy, the lack of moderate and reformist choices, and overall disillusionment and frustration with the government as reasons for why people stayed home.
"The turnout is very important for the Islamic republic. That is why the Supreme Leader has called on Iranians to participate and cast their vote. But for now, they are not doing so," DW correspondent Theresa Tropper said on Friday, reporting from a polling station in Tehran.
"There are hardly any voters in this polling station in northern Tehran. Because with half of the candidates barred from running, people feel they don't have a choice this time and can't make a difference anyway. So while hardliners are sure to emerge victorious from this election, polls are also predicting the lowest turnout in years."
On top, Iran's economy has struggled under crippling US sanctions reimposed in 2018 when US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of a nuclear deal with the Middle Eastern power.
The Iranian military's recent downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet, which had been carrying many Iranian citizens, also resulted in a wave of anti-government protests.
When voting meets virus
The vote and counting are taking place against the backdrop of a mounting death toll connected to COVID-19, the illness caused by the deadly coronavirus that has spread from China across the globe.
The sixth Iranian fatality linked to the disease was a citizen in the central city of Arak, the governor of Markazi province told Iranian news agency IRNA on Saturday. The patient, who had tested positive for the virus, had also been suffering from heart complications.
Authorities had reported the fifth death earlier in the day on Saturday as well as two fatalities the day before. Currently, 28 cases have been confirmed in Iran.
Many voters could be seen wearing medical face masks as they went to the polls.
As a precaution, authorities closed schools in Tehran and in the holy city of Qom, from where the outbreak seems to have spread, as well as in three other provinces.
In the capital, water fountains in the city's subways and restaurants were shut down for the time being. Football matches have been suspended for the next 10 days. The city has also instituted regularly cleaning measures for subway cars and buses.
kp/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)