Hard-liner Raisi wins Iranian presidential election amid low turnout

June 19, 2021
Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi officially won the country's presidential election with 17.9 million votes, the Interior Ministry announced Saturday.
Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi officially won the country's presidential election with 17.9 million votes, the Interior Ministry announced Saturday.

TEHRAN — Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi officially won the country's presidential election with 17.9 million votes, the Interior Ministry announced Saturday.

On Friday, Iran's 13th presidential elections kicked off with four candidates competing for the presidency. Up to 67,000 polling stations across the country, as well as 234 others abroad were allocated to receive voters.

Deputy Interior Minister Jamal Orf said 28.6 million Iranians participated in Friday's election, and with around 90 percent of the votes counted so far, Raisi has garnered over 17.8 million ballots, reported Press TV.

In second place was Mohsen Rezaei, a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and current secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, with 3.3 million ballots.

Meanwhile, former Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Nasser Hemmati garnered 2.4 million votes, and conservative MP Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi won almost one million votes, the Ministry figures revealed.

Raisi, who has been the Chief Justice since 2019, has formerly held several other posts in the country judicial branch following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Although associated with the Principlist camp, Raisi said he ran in the election this year as an independent.

He was campaigning with the slogan "Popular Administration, Strong Iran" aimed at uprooting corruption in the executive branch, fighting poverty, creating jobs and containing inflation.

His win has since been confirmed by the commission. But Raisi's rivals had conceded defeat even before the final results were released.

Hemmati wrote to the new president-elect on Instagram early on Saturday: “I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran.”

Rezaei also conceded defeat. Outgoing president Hasan Rouhani congratulated his successor, but without naming him.

More than 4 million votes, however, were determined to be invalid. Local police forces announced the arrest of dozens of people across the country on Friday, some in connection with alleged cash-for-votes operations.

The initial results appeared to show the race had the country's lowest turnout of any vote since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with about half of the 59 million-strong electorate casting a vote.

The election also had no international observers to monitor proceedings on the day, in line with previous years. Voting was delayed in some polling stations due to technical issues with the electronic voting system and a shortage of paper ballots.

Raisi, a protege of both Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini, benefited from the disqualification of most of his strongest competitors.

In May the Guardian Council, an unelected body which oversees elections in Iran, disqualified all but seven candidates, six of them belonging to Iran's conservative faction and three of whom withdrew before polling day on Friday.

Turnout appeared to be far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. Voting was extended from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday at several polling stations nationwide.

Both Khamenei and Iranian state television sought to downplay the low turnout, blaming it on interference by Iran's regional and Western rivals. The Islamic Republic has long cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy ever since it was established in 1979.

The outgoing administration of moderate president Rouhani had reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

But this crumbled just three years later when then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Talks about the possibility of reviving the deal are ongoing in Vienna. But the election of Raisi, a hard-liner, will do little to improve their prospects for success.

Raisi is now poised to become the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government before entering office. Travel bans mean it will be difficult for him to conduct state visits to any countries that uphold the sanctions.

The US sanctions relate to his direct involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 as a member of the so-called Tehran 'Death Panel' appointed by Khomeini.

His victory puts hardliners firmly in control of the Iranian executive at a time when Tehran is also enriching uranium at its highest-ever level.

Former president Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who served for eight years, said of the vote: “This is not acceptable. How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

Reformist politician Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under house arrest ever since the pro-democracy Green Movement protests of 2009, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his hard-line rival in that year's election, both boycotted the vote on Friday. — Agencies

June 19, 2021
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