Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iranian Leaders React After Apparent Popular Boycott of Parliamentary Election

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows President Hassan Rouhani speaking to the press after casting his vote at a polling station in the capital Tehran, Feb. 21, 2020.

Iranian media is saying that preliminary results of Friday's parliamentary election are showing conservatives winning 70% of the 290-seat chamber, with independents taking about 20%, and reformists just 10%. Many observers, however, are pointing to extremely low turnout in most parts of the country.

Amateur video broadcast by Arab and Iranian media showed several men outside an Iranian polling station, claiming that electoral officials had "stolen" Friday's parliamentary election. VOA could not independently confirm the claim, but dozens of video reports by citizen journalists on social media appeared to show extremely low turnout at many polling stations.

There were some reports on social media that turnout was so low, Iranian electoral officials had decided not to announce the exact turnout, region by region, but instead would give the total turnout for the entire country.

Despite the apparently low turnout, Iranian media continued to show video of President Hassan Rouhani asserting that [Friday's election] was "a glorious event in the history of the country and of the [1979 Islamic] revolution." He added that polling stations across the country were linked online, and that he was impressed by the Interior Ministry's electoral "nerve center."

Iran's Fars news agency quoted Abbas Ali Khadkhodai, spokesman for the Guardian Council that supervised the election, as thanking the "thousands of members of the council's observer network across the country" for making sure that the election was "sound and that people's votes were in good hands."

Poll workers carry ballot boxes after voting in parliamentary elections ended, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 22, 2020. (via Wana News Agency)
Poll workers carry ballot boxes after voting in parliamentary elections ended, in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 22, 2020. (via Wana News Agency)

Photos on social media, however, showed electoral officials at a number of polling stations emptying ballot boxes on the floor and appearing to count them manually.

Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr told VOA that according to reports he's seen, more than 80% of Iranians boycotted the election, and that the government did not expect such a strong reaction from the public.

He said the government is still insisting turnout was high, though the figures they publish show the reality. In the city of Khorramshahr, he noted, authorities are claiming that 47,000 people voted, but they're also saying that the winner received only 9,000 votes. That probably means only about 17,000 people voted and they multiplied the real figure by a factor of at least three.

Iran's parliamentary election also appears to coincide with a public scare over a coronavirus outbreak in several cities, including Qom. Social media is reporting one top Tehran municipal official had come down with the virus and was seen Friday shaking hands with other officials and voters.

Arab news channels for the most part ridiculed Iran's election, and one Lebanese TV station joked that the "only thing Iran does well, is to spread the coronavirus."