Iran reported the first deaths in Qum two days before the parliamentary elections. The trust in the government was low after its brutal suppression of the protests in November and its cover-up of the accidental shooting-down of a Ukrainian jetliner in the aftermath of Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s assassination.
A high turnout in the elections would help improve the legitimacy of the government. Tehran seems to have suppressed information about the coronavirus because it did not want participation in the elections to be affected.
Although the hard-liners won the elections, voting was the lowest since 1979. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused the country’s enemies of exaggerating the threat of the coronavirus right before the elections to keep voters away from the polls.
Iran could have minimized the outbreak by moving swiftly to quarantine Qum, which is very crowded and heavily infected, but it did not. Some measures have now been taken. For instance, subway cars in Tehran have been disinfected, schools across the country are closed and Friday Prayer services are canceled in most provinces.