Iranians vote in an all but decided presidential election

18 Juin, 2021, 20:34 | Auteur: Christine Menetries
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Casts First Ballot In Presidential Vote

Raisi was among seven men approved last month to run in the election by the 12-member Guardian Council, a body that vets candidates for elected office and whose decisions reflect the preferences of the supreme leader. The stakes are high: the victor of this election will lead Iran through a pandemic, intense economic sanctions, runaway inflation, and the ongoing negotiations to restore the nuclear deal.

It's election day in Iran and for many, the question is not who to vote for, but whether to vote at all.

The only reformist still running is a technocrat, central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, who has promised to revive the economy and, unusually in Iran, involved his wife in campaigning.

Iranians vote on Friday in a race likely to hand the presidency to a judge sanctioned by Washington for alleged involvement in executions of political prisoners, a result that would cheer the clerical leadership but stir Western human rights concerns. "Go ahead, choose and vote".

Iranian opposition groups overseas and some dissidents at home have urged a boycott of the vote they see as an engineered victory for Mr. Raisi, the 60-year-old head of the judiciary, to cement ultraconservative control. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout of just 42%, which would be the lowest ever since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation home to over 80 million people. But polls have shown Raisi with an overwhelming advantage over Hemmati and two other candidates.

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The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast the first vote in Tehran and then urged Iran's almost 60 million eligible voters to follow suit before the scheduled close of polls at midnight. As supreme leader, Khamenei has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program. "How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?" A flyer handed out Wednesday on the streets of Tehran by hardliners followed in that thought, bearing the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. "Iran will be under shadow of a Syrian-style civil war and the ground will be ready for assassination of scientists and important figures".

Yet the disqualification of candidates seemed aimed at preventing anyone other than Raisi from winning the election, as Khatami did in 1997 by surprisingly beating a hardliner favored by Khamenei.

But high hopes for greater prosperity and a reopening to the world were crushed in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched an economic and diplomatic "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran. Iran's already ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

But the election of an Iranian head of government now under United States sanctions could alarm Washington and liberal Iranians, analysts of Iranian politics said, especially given President Joe Biden's sharpened focus on human rights globally.

The victor will take over in August as Iran's eighth president from incumbent Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has served the maximum of two consecutive four-year-terms allowed under the constitution.

"The sooner you perform this task and duty, the better", the 81-year-old Khamenei said. "Raisi will be the next president whether we vote or not", said an Iranian journalist who asked not to be named due to security concerns.

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