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Iran’s Khamenei calls for high turnout in parliamentary election

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks as he meets with people, in Tehran, Iran February 18, 2020. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) – A high turnout in a parliamentary election will display unity in Iran against “enemies”, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted on Tuesday, days before the vote seen as a referendum on the clerical establishment’s popularity.

“America will fail to create divisions between the authorities and Iranians … a high turnout will display our unity against the enemies,” Khamenei tweeted.

The Guardian Council, a hardline vetting body, has rejected around 6,850 moderate or conservative hopefuls in favour of hardliners from among the 14,000 applicants seeking to contest the Feb. 21 vote. About a third of lawmakers have also been barred from standing again.

Khamenei, the final authority in Iran’s complex system of clerical rule and limited democracy, backed the Guardian Council, saying the next parliament was no place for those scared of speaking out against foreign enemies.

“The election will neutralise American’s ill intentions … the vote is the Islamic Republic’s prestige,” state TV reported Khamenei as saying.

Tensions have been high between Iran and the United States since 2018, when President Donald Trump exited a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sanctions that have hit the country’s economy hard.

In retaliation, Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the deal. Tehran says its steps are reversible if European parties to the agreement fulfil their promises of shielding Iran’s economy from U.S. penalties.

“We need a strong parliament to neutralise plots of our enemies,” said Khamenei.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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