Hard-liners make early gains in restricted Iran election

Voters had been expected to shun the polls, disillusioned by unfulfilled promises and struggling to cope in a country whose economy has buckled under US sanctions. Final results for both the capital and other provinces would be announced by Sunday. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2020

Hard-liners make early gains in restricted Iran election

  • Voter turnout remained low following the disqualification of nearly half the candidates
  • However, Iranian authorities have yet to announce the turnout in the race for the 290-seat legislature

TEHRAN: Conservatives took an early lead on Saturday as the first results of Iran’s parliamentary election came in, boosted by a predicted low turnout following the disqualification of nearly half the candidates.

Friday’s election followed months of steeply escalating tensions between Iran and the US.
 Voters had been widely expected to shun the polls, disillusioned by unfulfilled promises and struggling to cope in a country whose economy has buckled under harsh US sanctions.
 About half of the 16,000-odd candidates were disqualified. Among them were many reformist and moderate candidates — including dozens of sitting MPs — leaving conservatives with virtually no competition.
 By midday on Saturday, votes had been counted in 71 constituencies out of 208, according to National Elections Committee figures reported by semi-official news agency ISNA.
 Tehran is the biggest catch in the election with 30 seats.
 The conservative and ultra-conservative alliance appeared to have a comfortable edge in the capital in early results, the committee’s spokesman Esmail Mousavi said on state television.
 Most votes went to the first three names on the alliance’s list, he said.
 

Opinion

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Leading the race was Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a three-time presidential candidate, former police chief and member of the Revolutionary Guards who was Tehran mayor from 2005 to 2017.
 Reformists and moderates hardly figured in the 37 other names of “leading Tehran candidates,” Mousavi said.
 Final results for both the capital and other provinces would be announced by early Sunday at the latest, he added.
 If the results are confirmed, it will mean President Hassan Rouhani’s slender majority of reformists and moderates elected with fanfare four years ago is nearly purged.
 “A lot of people voted in the previous parliamentary election, but the enthusiasm faded away every day after that,” Ali, a Tehran taxi driver, told AFP.
 “And now there’s nothing to be hopeful about to go and vote,” added the 53-year-old, who abstained.

HIGHLIGHTS

• About half of the 16,000-odd candidates were disqualified.

• Tehran is the biggest catch in the election with 30 seats.

• Final results for both the capital and other provinces will be announced by early Sunday.

• The 11th parliamentary election since the 1979 revolution comes after a surge in tensions between Tehran and Washington.

• Leading the race was Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a three-time presidential candidate, former police chief and member of the Revolutionary Guards who was Tehran mayor from 2005 to 2017.

 With official figures still coming in, news agencies close to conservatives and ultra-conservatives have predicted a landslide win for their candidates across Iran.
 An unofficial tally published by Fars news agency said 183 of Parliament’s 290 seats had already been decided, with conservative candidates winning 135 of them.
 Reformists were a distant second at 20, it said, adding independents had won 28 seats.
 Fars tweeted that turnout in Tehran was 1.9 million out of more than 9 million eligible voters.
 Many in the capital seem to have sat out the election, including Arghavan Aram, who manages an NGO for transsexuals.
 “An election with only one faction is not an election, it’s a selection,” she said.
 But Aram appeared optimistic for a future where “Trump leaves, Democrats come to power alongside a moderate supreme leader” in Iran and things would change.
 The state television website said that among 56 winners announced on Saturday, most were fresh faces and only 10 were former MPs.
 The 11th parliamentary election since the 1979 revolution comes after a surge in tensions between Tehran and Washington, and Iran’s accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner that sparked anti-government protests.
 Turnout was estimated at around 40 percent nationwide and 30 percent in Tehran at the scheduled close of polls on Friday, according to Fars.
 But authorities extended polling for another six hours to allow as many people as possible to vote.
 Fars said the official turnout figure would be released on Saturday, while official results are not expected to be announced until Sunday.
 Schools were closed in dozens of urban centers on Saturday while the count went ahead.
 Iran fell into a deep recession after US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal in 2018.      


Medics at Egypt’s main cancer center test positive for virus

Updated 12 min 35 sec ago

Medics at Egypt’s main cancer center test positive for virus

  • Egypt has reported around 1,000 confirmed cases and 66 fatalities from the global pandemic
  • The National Cancer Institute will be partly closed for three days to be sterilized, with only the emergency ward remaining open

CAIRO: At least 15 medics in Egypt’s main cancer hospital have been quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday, raising fears the pandemic could prey on health facilities in the Arab world’s most populous country.

Egypt has reported around 1,000 confirmed cases and 66 fatalities from the global pandemic. Authorities have closed schools and mosques, banned public gatherings and imposed a nighttime curfew to prevent the virus from spreading among the population of 100 million, a fifth of whom live in the densely-populated capital, Cairo.

Dr. Hatem Abu el-Kassem, the director of the National Cancer Institute, said three doctors and 12 nurses tested positive for the virus. He said all other health workers at the facility, which treats hundreds of cancer patients every day, would be tested.

The institute will be partly closed for three days to be sterilized, with only the emergency ward remaining open.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying health problems, including cancer patients.

More than a million people have been infected worldwide and more than 50,000 have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. More than 200,000 have recovered, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

Egypt’s Health Ministry reported a spike in cases on Friday, with 120 new infections and eight fatalities, its highest one-day tally since the first case was reported in February.

The government has not yet imposed the kind of total lockdown seen in other countries in the region, but officials have said there are plans for stricter measures if needed.