Rivals acknowledge Iran election victor

Pablo Tucker
June 19, 2021

With uncertainty surrounding Iran's efforts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal, the turnout is being viewed by analysts as a referendum on the leadership's handling of an array of crises.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast the first vote just after 7:00 am (0230 GMT) at a specially installed ballot box at a mosque adjoining his offices in the capital.

State-linked opinion polling and analysts put hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi as the dominant front-runner in a field of just four candidates. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei's son, Mojtaba.

Voters queue at a polling station during the presidential elections in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021.

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.

"I will vote (out of respect) for martyrs", a young man told state TV, referring to Iranians killed by the country's enemies.

State television also aired footage of a polling station set up by Soleimani's grave in the city of Kerman. More than 59 million Iranians are eligible to vote. Authorities had extended Friday's vote by two hours past the original midnight closing time in the hope of seeing more voters make it to the polls. The results are expected around midday on Saturday. "This stance is a big no to the Islamic republic", she said. She said contrary to what state TV reported, "the polling stations are nearly empty here".

The establishment's religiously devout core supporters are expected to vote for Raisi, a mid-ranking Shia Muslim cleric who lost to Rouhani in 2017.

Regardless of who wins, Khamenei remains Iran's ultimate decision-maker in matters of foreign and nuclear policy.

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. Since 1980, the highest turnout in presidential elections was 85.2% in 2009 and the lowest was 50.6% in 1993.

Rezaei's concession in a post on Twitter came as Iran's outgoing President Hassan Rouhani also acknowledged the victor in the polling was "clear" though he did not immediately name Raisi as his successor.

"Eruption of protests will be inevitable if he fails to heal the nation's economic pain", a government official said, referring to Raisi. Washington has sanctioned Raisi for alleged involvement in Iran's mass executions of political prisoners in the late 1980s.

Raisi did not immediately acknowledge Hemmati's concession, nor that of former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei, who also acknowledged the loss.

Tehran accepted those limits in return for relief from global sanctions as part of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Other reports by iNewsToday