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Iran’s hard-liners take early lead in election

The full results and turnout figure are yet to be released.

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A voter flashes a victory sign with her inked finger while voting for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

A voter flashes a victory sign with her inked finger while voting for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

A voter flashes a victory sign with her inked finger while voting for the parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Iranian state TV has announced the first partial results from the country’s parliamentary elections, indicating a strong showing by hard-liners in the capital Tehran.

Authorities have not released full results or the all-important turnout figure.

Voters had limited options on Friday’s ballot as more than 7,000 potential candidates were disqualified, most of them reformists and moderates.

Iran Elections
A soldier guards at a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Tehran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Among those disqualified were 90 sitting members of Iran’s 290-seat Parliament who had wanted to run for re-election.

Although the final tally was still not released, a lower than usual turnout would signal widespread dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and the ways in which the government has handled a range of crises.

State TV, without providing the number of votes, announced the names of the leading candidates in Tehran’s 30 parliamentary seats.

All were hard-liners led by Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who is expected to be the next Parliament Speaker.

Looming over the election was the threat of the new coronavirus.

Many voters headed to the polls with face masks on and some pharmacies ran out of masks and hand sanitiser amid the election day rush.

The 2016 parliamentary election had a 62% turnout.

On Friday, election officials kept the polls open an extra five hours in an effort to boost turnout.

Iran’s leadership and state media had urged people to show up and vote, with some framing it as a religious duty.

Iran Elections
A voter shows his identification and inked finger while voting (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

A Parliament stacked with hard-liners could tilt public policy debates away from engagement with the US.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been high since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers and imposed sanctions that have forced Iran’s economy into recession.

Iranians have endured the price of basic goods skyrocketing, inflation and unemployment rising and the local currency plummeting.

The economic woes faced by ordinary Iranians fuelled anti-Government protests in November.

International human rights groups say at least 300 people were killed in those protests.

A more hard-line parliament could also favour expanding the budget of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Guard’s elite Quds Force, responsible for the Islamic Republic’s campaigns abroad, was formerly led by Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani.

He was killed in a US air strike in January.

That strike led to a tense confrontation in which Iranian forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Most of those killed were Iranian.

The shoot-down and attempts by officials to initially conceal the cause of the crash, sparked public anger and protests in Iran.

A more hard-line Parliament could lead to increased social and cultural restrictions as well.

Pressure from conservatives in recent years has led authorities to ban concerts and block Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

PA Media