İrem UZUN -TDO- Iranians voted in their country's 11th parliamentary election, seen as a test for the popularity of President Hassan Rouhani's reformist-moderate camp as hardliners were expected to make gains. The disqualification of more than 7,000 potential candidates, most of them reformists and moderates, raised the possibility of lower-than-usual turnout. Among those disqualified were 90 sitting members of parliament who had wanted to run for re-election. Elections for Iran's 290-member parliament are set amid escalating political tensions, economic struggles and concerns of low participation. The spectra of the coronavirus infection that has killed two people also adds another layer of uncertainty to the electoral process.

Iran’s leadership and state media have urged people to show up and vote, with some framing it as a religious duty. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his ballot at a mosque near his Tehran office shortly after polls opened at 8 am. “Anyone who cares about Iran’s national interests should participate in the election,” he said. Earlier in the week, Khamenei said high voter turnout will thwart “plots and plans” by the U.S. and supporters of Israel against Iran.

Iran implemented two emergency extensions to voting in Friday's parliamentary elections, amid concerns of a big drop in voter turnout, state television reported.  The polls are now due to close at 10 pm, four hours after originally scheduled.  Iranian authorities had forecast a 50 percent turnout but figures announced by the ministry after seven hours of voting suggested only a fifth of registered voters had turned up. Encouraging Iranians to vote, state TV aired footage of people lined up at polling stations set up mainly at mosques.

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