Iran’s Khamenei blames coronavirus, foreign media for discouraging voter turnout
Supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused foreign media of trying to use a deadly outbreak of coronavirus in Iran to “discourage” people from voting in a general election.
“This negative propaganda began a few months ago and grew larger approaching the election and in the past two days, under the pretext of an illness and a virus, their media did not miss the slightest opportunity to discourage people from voting,” said Khamenei.
“(Our enemies) are even opposed to any election by the Iranian people,” the leader was quoted as saying on his official website.
Iranians voted in a parliamentary election on Friday, two days after an outbreak of the new coronavirus emerged in the country.
A low turnout had already been expected after a conservative-dominated electoral watchdog disqualified thousands of candidates, most of them moderates and reformists.
The COVID-19 outbreak has claimed the lives of six people in the Islamic republic since Wednesday.
Hardline allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are expected to gain a sizeable majority based on preliminary results.
Iranian authorities have yet to announce the turnout in February 21 election for the 290-seat parliament – a litmus test of the popularity of hardliners.
Some early results announced by the Interior Ministry indicated that the hardline loyalists to Khamenei were gaining a majority in the 290-seat parliament.
“So far, 42 seats of the parliament had been won outright by candidates,” state TV said. According to a Reuters tally of those results, over 80 percent of them are loyalists to Khamenei.