© Reuters. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a speech at the opening ceremony of the 11th Iranian Parliament as coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread in Tehran
DUBAI (Reuters) – The new Iranian parliament met on Wednesday after the February 21 elections under strict health protocols and social distance rules to ward off the coronavirus in one of the most affected countries in the Middle East.
Many legislators wore masks and their temperatures were measured before entering the South Tehran parliament building, Iranian media reported.
The Iranian hardline surveillance body, the Guardian Council, which has to approve parliamentary candidates, disqualified thousands of moderates and leading conservatives and allowed voters to choose between hard-nosed and reserved conservative candidates who are loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to help the elections contest.
Like hardliners, conservatives support ruling theocracy, but, unlike them, support more engagement with the outside world.
The Iranian parliament with 290 seats has no significant influence on the foreign policy or the Iranian nuclear policy, which are determined by Khamenei. But it could strengthen hardliners in the 2021 presidential election and tighten Tehran's foreign policy.
Next week, the legislature will elect a parliamentary speaker for a one-year term.
The Iranian Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday that the death toll in Iran, with 139,511 confirmed cases, had reached 7,508. State television said all 268 lawmakers who attended the opening ceremony had tested coronavirus negatively.
"We are among the countries that have successfully fought this dangerous virus," said President Hassan Rouhani in a speech to the parliament that was broadcast live on state television.
Because of the outbreak, lawmakers postponed a traditional visit to the shrine of Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian state-run news agency IRNA reported.
After 69 days, Iran reopened sacred Shiite sites and shrines across the country. Pilgrims must observe the social distance regulations when entering.
Dozens of Iranian officials have died from the corona virus, including two legislators elected in February.
(This story is rewritten when a new parliament is convened.)
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