1159 GMT April 03, 2020
Leader: Elections mark day of national celebration
Rouhani: Public to stage another victory
Iranians went to the polls Friday for the 11th parliamentary elections since the 1979 Islamic Revolution amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States.
Voters formed long queues at some polling stations across the country. Iranian authorities had urged people to show up and vote, with some calling it as a religious duty.
Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei cast his ballot at a mosque near his Tehran office shortly after polls opened at 8 a.m.
After he cast his ballot in the election, Ayatollah Khamenei urged all Iranians to take part, saying that doing so would "guarantee the country's national interests".
“Anyone who cares about Iran's national interests should participate in the election," he said. Earlier in the week, Ayatollah Khamenei said high voter turnout will thwart "plots and plans” by the US and supporters of Israel against Iran.
“These elections mark a day of national celebration and I have to congratulate all my fellow countrymen across the country on this occasion", the Leader said Friday.
Secondly, the day of elections is the day of the fulfillment of the civil rights of the people which seek to vote and participate in determining the future of the country, as they are entitled to," he added.
"Thirdly, it is a religious obligation and the truth is that it is elections which guarantee the national interests of the country and anyone who is interested in the national interests of the country should vote," Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The Leader urged voters to turn out early in the day and to vote based on the number of total competing candidates in any given city.
Seven hours after polls opened, the Interior Ministry said about 11 million voters had cast their ballots.
Nearly 58 million Iranians, out of a population of more than 80 million, are eligible to vote. Every Iranian above the age of 18 can vote.
Turnout has been over 50% in previous parliamentary elections. In 2016, it was nearly 62%.
The Guardian Council, a top electoral body that oversees election, said it expected at least 50 percent of voters to turn out.
Around 7,000 hopefuls were contesting the 290 seats up for grabs across 31 provinces with 208 constituencies after the Guardian Council, which weeds out less qualified candidates, announced thousands as disqualified.
The current Parliament, elected in 2016, had more than 100 reformists and moderates, with the rest of the chamber split between independents and conservatives. Some 90 current lawmakers were also barred from running in Friday's elections.
President Hassan Rouhani cast his ballot on Friday and urged the public to stage another victory by voting in large numbers. “Our enemies will be disappointed more than before,” he said.
Rouhani "hoped that the best make it to the 11th parliament".
"What the people demand is a more active parliament which can better focus on resolving the problems which affect their lives," he added.
The president said since Iran's first parliamentary elections following the Islamic Revolution on March 1980, elections have been held regularly in the country despite times of hardship.
He also said Iran's parliamentary elections have been held without any interruption of any sort in the last ten years, marking "a unique reality in the history of democracy and of Iran".
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that "the people are the main backers of the Islamic Revolution," adding Iran's diplomacy is also dependent on the support of its people.
Zarif said the elections showcase that Iranians are choosing their own fate and “do not allow a person sitting in Washington to make decisions for them."
Tensions have been running high between Tehran and Washington since US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions after unilaterally pulling out of a landmark nuclear deal in 2018.
On the eve of the vote, the US slapped sanctions on five officials from the Guardian Council including its chief Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.
US special representative for Iran Brian Hook – who announced the bans – accused the officials of preventing free and fair elections.
Jannati laughed off the sanctions, saying that they demonstrated the "mind paralysis" of those who imposed them.
I am thinking what to do with all that money we have in American accounts?" the 92-year-old cleric said.
"Now we can't even go there for Christmas anymore!"
Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei slammed the sanctions as "sham and illegitimate" measures demonstrating the United States' disregard for democracy.
He added that the US in fact "desired the region's dictatorial governments as child-killing regimes, seeing them as cows that can be milked for benefit".
AFP, AP and Press TV contributed to this story.