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Iran Officials Make Contradictory Remarks About Turnout In Elections

A woman casts her vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran. February 21, 2020.
A woman casts her vote during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran. February 21, 2020.

Officials in charge of holding Iran's parliamentary elections have been making contradictory remarks about the the turnout which appears to be very low in sat least several provinces.

For weeks Iranian officials have been saying that high voter turnout in the elections will prove the ineffectiveness of U.S. policies toward Iran so a higher turnout appears to be highly important to the regime.

Authorities sound concerned about the participation rate in today's elections. Mahmoud Alavi, Intelligence Minister, expressed hope that by the end of the polls the number of participants in the election would reach "an acceptable level".

Voters in this election were choosing from over 7,000 candidates for the 290 seats of the Iranian Parliament, the Majles. But around 9,000 other candidates were barred from running by the hardliner-controlled Guardian Council, which vets candidates.

Also, disqualification of well-known candidates, coupled with unprecedented government use of force against protesters in November and downing a Ukrainian airliner in January led to public anger, disillusionment and an anticipation of low turnout.

Fars News Agency has claimed that on the basis of figures compiled by 6:00 pm the turnout is estimated to be 39 to 40 percent of the eligible voters at the national level and 30 percent for Tehran.

Turnout in the parliamentary elections of four years ago stood at 62 percent.

Hardliner media such as Tasnim News Agency have claimed that participation increased after regular voting hours and accused the Interior Ministry election supervisors of "refusing to extend the voting hours", which would stop people from voting and "affecting the turnout level".

Several videos tweeted from Iran show empty streets and empty polling stations. This one is from Kerman.

The turnout level and its details are usually announced during voting with the final figures being announced immediately or soon after the closure of polling stations.

Today, the Governor of Tehran Province Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey, however, said it has been decided not to announce the turnout figures separately for each province without citing a reason.

According to another official, the Spokesman of the National Election Headquarters, turnout levels will be announced after polls close but in a turn from the normal practice, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli today said it has been decided to announce the turnout on Saturday without giving any further explanation about the delay.

Announcements are being made in a chaotic manner. Some other governors have already made some announcements about the turnout in their provinces.

In Qom Province, for instance, Deputy Governor was quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency as saying that 320,000 out of 820,000 eligible voters had voted by 8:00 pm. Qom was the first Iranian province to report a coronavirus outbreak on Thursday with two fatalities.

The Governor of Isfahan Province, Hossein Sistani also announced a 21 percent turnout by afternoon in his province while the Governor of Mashhad said by 7:00 pm 30 percent of the eligible voters had gone to the polls in Khorasan Razavi Province.

Seven hours after the polls started Jamal Orfi, Head of the National Election Headquarters, said 11 million Iranians had voted. In total, nearly 58 million Iranians were eligible to vote in this election with 1.9 million eligible to vote for the first time. This means after seven hours slightly under 19 percent of the eligible voters had voted.

Polls which were supposed to close at 6:00 pm were extended several times on Friday, until 11:30 pm in some constituencies including Tehran. Extension of polling time has many precedents in past cases when turnout were high.