Iran’s hardline judiciary chief has won the country’s presidential election in a landslide victory, propelling the Supreme Leader’s protege into Tehran’s highest civilian position in a vote that appeared to see the lowest turnout in the Islamic republic’s history.
- Ebrahim Raisi will be the first Iranian president subject to US sanctions for alleged human rights abuses before taking power
- Polls suggest voter turnout was 44 per cent, lower than at past Iranian elections
- The quick concessions suggest the win was a landslide for Mr Raisi even amid voter apathy
Initial results showed Ebrahim Raisi won 17.8 million votes in the contest, dwarfing those of the race’s sole moderate candidate.
However, Mr Raisi dominated the election only after a panel under the watch of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disqualified his strongest competition.
His candidacy, and the sense the election served more as a coronation for him, sparked widespread apathy among eligible voters in the Islamic republic, which has held up turnout as a sign of support for the theocracy since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Some, including former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called for a boycott.
In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters.
Former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaee was quick to concede to Mr Raisi.(Reuters: Ayoub Ghaderi/YJC/WANA
The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Mr Orf said.
Mr Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Mr Raisi, while Mr Rezaei praised Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote in his concession on Twitter.
The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signalled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Mr Raisi amid the boycott calls.
Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies.
But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2 per cent support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic republic.
The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Mr Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.
Voter turnout has been lower than usual this year, a worry for a regime that relies on high turnout to claim legitimacy.(Reuters: Majid Asgaripour/WANA
Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.
If elected, Mr Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticised judiciary one of the world’s top executioners.
It also would put hardliners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disqualified some of Ebrahim Raisi’s strongest competition.(AP: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader
Tensions remain high with both the US and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.
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 Ayatollah Khamenei.
Speculation already has begun that Mr Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Ayatollah Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.