Die-hard judiciary leader wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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Updated June 19, 2021 at 8:28 a.m. ET

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The Iranian justice chief won the country’s presidential election in a landslide victory on Saturday, propelling the supreme leader’s protege to Tehran’s highest civilian post in a vote which appeared to have the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic. the story.

Early results showed Ebrahim Raisi won 17.8 million votes in the contest, eclipsing those of the race’s only moderate contender. However, Raisi only dominated the election after a panel led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disqualified his stronger competitor.

His candidacy, and the feeling that the election served as more of a crown for him, sparked widespread apathy among eligible voters in the Islamic Republic, which has maintained participation as a sign of support for the theocracy since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Some, including former radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have called for a boycott.

In the first results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, head of the electoral headquarters of Iran’s ministry of the Interior. The fourth candidate in the race, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, got around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early on Saturday.

“I hope that your administration is a source of pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and well-being for the great Iranian nation,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei congratulated Khamenei and the Iranian people for participating in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The swift concessions, while not unusual in previous Iranian elections, signaled what semi-official news agencies in Iran had been hinting at for hours: that the carefully controlled vote had been a resounding victory for Raisi in the midst of the elections. calls for boycott.

As night fell on Friday, the turnout appeared to be much lower than in the last Iranian presidential election in 2017. At a polling station inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played ball. football with a young boy while most of his employees napped in a yard. In another, officials watched videos on their cellphones as state television screamed alongside them, offering only tight shots of locations across the country – as opposed to long election lines. past.

Voting ended at 2 a.m. on Saturday, after the government extended the vote to take account of what it called “overcrowding” at several polling stations nationwide. The paper ballots, crammed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand overnight, and authorities said they expected to have the first results and turnout numbers by Saturday morning at the most. early.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the skills to do this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name. . by hurrying to take a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the ballot box. “I don’t have a candidate here.”

Iranian state television has sought to downplay turnout, singling out the Gulf Arab sheikhs around it and led by hereditary rulers, and low turnout in Western democracies. After a day of escalating authorities’ attempts to get the vote out, state television overnight aired scenes from crowded voting booths in several provinces, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution toppled the shah, the Iranian theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, starting with its first referendum which won 98.2% support and which simply asked if people wanted or not an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and supporters of Rouhani, whose administration both struck the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with America’s unilateral withdrawal. of the deal by then-President Donald Trump.

Voter apathy has also been fueled by the devastated state of the economy and a moderate campaign amid months of rising coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped the ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first sitting Iranian president to be sanctioned by the US government even before taking office for his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as for his tenure as head. of the internationally criticized Iranian justice system – one of the best executioners in the world.

It would also firmly put hard-line supporters in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue in an attempt to salvage a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching Iran. uranium at its highest level ever recorded, although it is still short. weapon quality levels. Tensions remain high with the United States and Israel, which reportedly carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites and assassinated the scientist who created his military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and therefore could lead what could be one of the most pivotal moments for the country in decades – the death of Khamenei, 82. Speculation has already started that Raisi could be a candidate for the post, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.



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