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Moderate Iranian candidate concedes victory for head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi

The only moderate in the Iranian presidential election conceded defeat on Saturday morning to the country’s head of radical justice. It signaled that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s protégé won a vote he dominated after his stronger competitor was disqualified.

Former moderate head of the Central Bank Abdolnasser Hemmati and former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei congratulated Ebrahim Raisi.

In the first results, Raisi won 17.8 million votes, compared to 3.3 million for Rezaei and 2.4 million for Hemmati, said Jamal Orf, head of the electoral headquarters of Iran’s interior ministry. The fourth candidate in the race, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, got around 1 million votes, Orf said.

The first results announced also appeared to show that the race had the lowest turnout in the country since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. However, the vote did not have international observers to monitor the election as in previous years.

This makes Raisi – who faces US sanctions for his role in the mass executions – the clear winner of the race. It was then that his candidacy sparked widespread apathy among eligible voters in the Islamic Republic, which has long retained participation as a sign of support for the theocracy since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

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

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.

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 in a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played football with a youth. boy while most of his employees were napping 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 accommodate 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. . rushing to 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 participation, singling out the Arab sheikhs in the Gulf around it, led by hereditary rulers and low participation 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. Former radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also barred from running, said on social media that he would boycott the vote.

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.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion