Published: Sat, June 19, 2021

Ultraconservative Raisi elected Iran president as rivals concede

Ultraconservative Raisi elected Iran president as rivals concede

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.

In a televised speech, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani congratulated "the people's elected (president)", without naming him.

"Raisi being elected will justify and legitimise America's human rights sanctions against the Islamic Republic", said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born expert on Iran at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.

Iranians voted on Friday in a presidential election, in which conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi is seen as all but certain to coast to victory after all serious rivals were barred from running.

Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate in Iran's presidential elections, raises his hands as he casts his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021.

Khamenei on Wednesday urged Iranians to turn out and vote, but record numbers of people are expected to boycott the polls due to anger over worsening economic hardship and frustration with hardline rule.

"Because it has not been officially announced yet, I will delay the official congratulations". "Go ahead, choose and vote".

There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation home to over 80 million people.


Iran's Guardian Council, the constitutional watchdog tasked with approving candidates, allowed only Raisi and six other lesser-known Khamenei loyalists to run in the election, barring hundreds of other presidential hopefuls, including several politicians who have prominent public profiles comparable to Raisi's. The disqualifications sparked a weekslong campaign by Khamenei's Iranian critics inside and outside the country to encourage a boycott of what they described as a sham election.

"This is not acceptable", said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. "This stance is a big no to the Islamic republic", she said. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2020. This has alienated a good number of Iranians already deeply discontented with their living conditions in an economy that is crippled by United States sanctions but also mismanagement. "Iran will be under shadow of a Syrian-style civil war and the ground will be ready for assassination of scientists and important figures".

While state television showed long queues at polling stations in several cities, the semi-official Fars news agency reported 22 million or 37% of voters had cast ballots by 7:30 p.m. (1500 GMT), citing its own reporter. Poll workers also wore gloves and masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, with some wiping down ballot boxes with disinfectants. The ballots were counted overnight, and authorities were yet to release the official result or turnout figures.

The election was engineered to pave the way for Mr Raisi to win. But high hopes for greater prosperity were crushed in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched a "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran. Iran's already ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

Reporters in Tehran say that early in the morning, foreign reporters visiting Iran for the election were bussed to a mosque in northern Tehran where the stage was set with female voters in the head-to-toe hijab displaying pictures of former IRGC Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani in voting lines.

Ultimate power in Iran, since its 1979 revolution toppled the US-backed monarchy, rests with the supreme leader, but the president wields major influence in areas from industrial policy to foreign affairs.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades - the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei.

Supported by the powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps, Raisi, a close Khamenei ally who vows to fight corruption, is under US sanctions for alleged involvement in executions of political prisoners decades ago.

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