TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian hardliners won a majority in parliamentary elections, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency, sweeping Tehran and other cities in a repudiation of President Hassan Rouhani's engagement with outside powers.
Mehr didn't give a final breakdown, saying that more than 220 out of 290 members of parliament will be hardliners and conservatives. The official turnout was 42.5%, the lowest in the history of the Islamic Republic.
The election had been widely predicted to hand control of the legislature to conservatives empowered by instability and economic damage triggered by U.S. policies. Participation was held back by the powerful Guardian Council's disqualification of hundreds of moderates and reformists.
Hard-liners and conservatives won all 30 seats in Tehran, the largest and most influential constituency, Fars said Saturday after polls closed at midnight. They also dominated in Esfahan, Khuzestan, Mazandaran and several other provinces, Mehr reported. Participation was held back by the powerful Guardian Council's disqualification of hundreds of moderates and reformists, Rouhani's loss of political credibility as the U.S. reimposed sanctions, and a reported surge in coronavirus cases in Iran this week.
Turnout in the 2016 election, which was dominated by reformers and moderates who supported Rouhani and the nuclear deal with global powers, was almost 62%. Several polling stations in both affluent and working-class neighborhoods of Tehran, the capital, were largely empty on Friday.
Given the vacuum among moderates candidates, conservative factions loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenie and generally opposed to engaging with the West were widely expected to prevail. Khamenie, on his official news portal, praised the "shining of the Iranian nation in the big test of the elections," while accusing a "foreign propaganda apparatus" of invoking coronavirus "to dissuade people from taking part in the elections."
Recent military exchanges, including the killing of General Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. strike, and highly charged rhetoric that's punctuated the confrontation with Washington, have also energized Khamenei's base.
For Mohammad, a 29-year-old voting in Tehran, a shift in the balance of power won't make much difference. "They're all cut from the same cloth," he said of the country's politicians, withholding his last name due to the sensitivities of talking to the foreign media in Iran. "I don't really think there's much to set them apart."
If arch-conservatives emerge victorious they'll control most branches of the state for the first time since the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency in 2013.