Government polls and analysts have cited ecclesiastical and judicial chief Ebrahim Raisi as the dominant lead candidate in an election that many are likely to ignore amid economic hardship and calls for boycott by liberals at home and abroad.
Iran votes in a presidential election in favor of a hardline protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, fueling public apathy and calling for a boycott in the Islamic Republic.
Nearly 60 million eligible voters can cast their votes by midnight (1930 GMT) and possibly two hours longer, with results expected around noon on Saturday, authorities say. But at lunchtime, the turnout seemed far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017.
State television provided accurate footage of polling stations, some of which appeared to have only a handful of voters in the early hours of the election.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his vote for the election in Tehran on Friday.
Those who passed several polling stations in Tehran said they saw similarly few voters. In some pictures on state television, election workers wore gloves and masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, with some wiping ballot boxes with disinfectant.
State opinion polls and analysts see the head of the hardline judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, as the dominant leader in a field of just four candidates.
The former head of the central bank, Abdolnasser Hemmati, is running as the moderate candidate for the race, but does not have the same level of support as outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who has limited a term of one more term.
If elected, Raisi would be the first incumbent Iranian president to be sanctioned by the US government before taking office for his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988 and his time as head of the internationally criticized judiciary of Iran – one of the best Executioner of the world.
It would also put hardliners in control of the Iranian government as negotiations continue in Vienna over an attempt to save Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers as it enriches uranium to the next point in weapon grade.
Tensions remain high with both the US and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and murdered the scientist who created his military nuclear program decades earlier.
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CONTINUE READING: The list of Iranian candidates for election is thinning as Khamenei pushes for a high turnout
Thin field of candidates
The polls opened at 7 a.m. local time for the vote, which has sparked widespread public apathy after the Iranian Council of Guardians under Khamenei excluded hundreds of candidates, including reformists and those close to Rouhani. Khamenei cast the ceremonial vote from Tehran, where he called on the public to participate.
“This day belongs to the people,” he said.
In Iran, a nation of over 80 million people, there are more than 59 million eligible voters.
The Iranian state student polling office, however, estimates a turnout of just 42 percent, which would be the lowest in the country since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
More hardliners, less republic
Fear of low turnout may warn Iran against being an Islamic Republic – a government with an elected civil leadership overseen by a top Shiite clergy leader – and a country ruled more strictly by its top leader. As supreme leader, Khamenei has the final say on all state affairs and oversees its defense and nuclear programs.
“That is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformer who tried to change his theocracy from within during his eight-year term in office.
“How would that agree with a republic or an Islam?”
For his part, Khamenei warned in a speech on Wednesday of “foreign conspiracies” aimed at lowering voter turnout.
A leaflet distributed by hardliners on the streets of Tehran on Wednesday followed this thought with the picture of Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone attack in 2020.
“If we don’t vote: The sanctions will be tougher, the US and Israel will be encouraged to attack Iran,” warned the leaflet. “Iran will be in the shadow of a Syrian civil war and the ground will be ready for the assassination of scientists and important figures.”
State television also broadcast footage of a polling station erected at Soleimani’s tomb in the city of Kerman.
The disqualification of candidates appeared to be aimed at preventing anyone other than Raisi from winning the election, as Khatami did in 1997 by surprisingly beating a man favored by Khamenei. This is paired with public anger against Rouhani, whose signed nuclear deal in 2015 failed after then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018.
Iran’s already ailing economy has since suffered from double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.
The vote “will be the least contested election in the history of the Islamic Republic,” wrote Torbjorn Soltvedt, an analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft. “The election is stacked heavily in favor of candidates from the theocratic and hard end of the Iranian political spectrum; The more overt forms of electoral fraud that characterized the tumultuous re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 will hardly be necessary. “
The decision to limit participation comes because the winner is likely to serve two four-year terms, as almost every Iranian president has done since the revolution. That means they may have one of the most important moments for the country in decades – the death of 82-year-old Khamenei.
There is already speculation that Raisi might be a contender for the position, as is Khamenei’s son Mojtaba, who is believed to have close ties with Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards.
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Source: TRTWorld and agencies