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Hardliners win in Iran’s parliamentary election

By Lawrence Gash

Coronavirus outbreak limits voter turnout

Hardliners win in Iranian parliamentary election

Although the official result has not been confirmed, anti-western so-called "hardliners" are widely expected to have won in Iran’s recent parliamentary elections.

The swing had been widely anticipated in the past year as a reaction to US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and implement crushing sanctions on the Iranian regime and economy.

The assassination of General Qasem Soleimani by the United States in Iraq all but confirmed the inevitable. This likely intensified support for those taking a hard anti-western line.

As the major general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and commander of the Quds force, Soleimani was often described as the most powerful man in Iran, second only to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Although loved by many Iranians for helping to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Soleimani was disliked by others in the country for his fierce suppression of anti-regime protests.

Election turnout was its lowest since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Critics of the Iranian regime had called for a boycott of the election in light of widespread repression and the disqualification of more than 16,000 candidates before polls opened.

However, the low turnout could also have been caused by the arrival of Covid-19 in Iran. The city of Qom has been placed in effective shutdown following the deaths of at least 12 people from the coronavirus.

One Iranian lawmaker, Ahmad Amirabadi-Farahani, contradicted official reports and stated that the death toll in Qom has already risen to 50. The country’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, reacted to the claim saying: “I categorically deny this information. This is not the time for political confrontations. The coronavirus is a national problem.”

On an international level, however, Iranian authorities have underlined the consequence of current political confrontations on its ability to limit the outbreak. In a letter to the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Abolfazl Fateh, a doctor aligned with reformist wing of the Iranian government led by president Hassan Rouhani, urged for the end to American sanctions.

“As you are aware, the country is under unprecedented and extreme sanctions put in place by the United States of America… Clearly, any delay in removing the sanctions on healthcare support will result in countless innocent and vulnerable people losing their lives,” he said.

FURTHER READING: Iran proposes Islamic crypto to challenge US dominance

FURTHER READING: Iran-US news: how Bitcoin prices reacted to Soleimani’s death

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