The sole moderate in Iran’s presidential elections has yielded to the country’s hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, indicating that the supreme leader’s protégé, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, won a vote that he dominated after being disqualified from his jurisdiction. stronger.
Former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati offered his congratulations to Raisi early Saturday. However, the count continued since Friday’s vote and authorities have yet to give any official results.
“I hope that his government, under the leadership of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will bring comfort and prosperity to our nation,” Hemmati said in a letter, the media reported.
Raisi, 60, will take over from moderate Hassan Rouhani as the Islamic republic seeks to salvage its ruined nuclear deal with major powers and free itself from the punishment of US sanctions that have caused a painful economic recession.
Raisi, the head of the judiciary whose black turban signifies direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad of Islam, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, who has the highest political power in Iran.
Friday’s vote was extended two hours after the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout of 50% or less.
Many voters chose to stay away after the field of 600 candidates was narrowed to seven candidates, all men, excluding a former president and a former speaker of parliament.
Three of the candidates examined dropped out of the race two days before Friday’s election and two of them supported Raisi.
Former populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those who were disqualified by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council of clergy and jurists, joined those who said they would not vote.
Raisi’s only rival in the reform camp was low-profile former central bank chief Hemmati, 65, who had conducted single-digit polls before the election.
Experts said the elections could mark a turning point in the country’s history and a fundamental crisis of legitimacy for the regime if turnout fueled by disillusionment falls below 50%.
Sadegh Zibakalam, a distinguished professor of politics at the University of Tehran, said the regime had defended itself for the past decades, pointing to the turnout as an indirect sign of support and almost a referendum for the Islamic republic.
“It will be a turning point because a majority does not participate in the elections and that means that a majority no longer supports the Islamic republic. That is the crux of this choice, ”he told a King’s College London seminar from Tehran.
On Election Day, images of voters often waving flags in the country of 83 million people dominated state television coverage, but outside of polling stations, some expressed anger at what they saw as a targeted election. across the stage.
“Vote or not, someone has already been elected,” Tehran merchant Saeed Zareie scoffed. “They organize the elections for the media.”
Excitement has been further tempered by the economic malaise of spiraling inflation and job losses, and the pandemic that proved deadlier in Iran than anywhere else in the region, killing more than 80,000 people according to official tally. .
Among those who lined up to vote in schools, mosques and community centers, many said they supported Raisi, who vowed to fight corruption, help the poor and build millions of flats for low-income families.
A nurse named Sahebiyan said she backed the leader for his anti-bribery credentials and hoping that he will “move the country forward … and save people from economic, cultural and social deprivation.”
Raisi has been named in the Iranian media as a possible successor to Khamenei.
For opposition and human rights groups, his name is linked to the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988. The US government has sanctioned him for the purge, in which Raisi has denied taking part.
Supreme power in Iran, since its 1979 revolution toppled the US-backed monarchy, rests with the supreme leader, but the president wields great influence in fields ranging from industrial policy to foreign affairs.
Rouhani, 72, steps down in August after serving the maximum of two consecutive four-year terms allowed by the constitution.
Its landmark achievement was the 2015 deal with world powers under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
But high hopes for greater prosperity were crushed in 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and launched a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran.
While Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, Trump accused Trump of still planning to build the bomb and destabilize the Middle East through armed power groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
As the old and new US sanctions hit Iran, trade dried up and foreign companies left. The economy collapsed and spiraling prices fueled repeated episodes of social unrest that were quelled by security forces.
Iran’s ultra-conservative camp, deeply distrustful of the United States, labeled the “Great Satan” or “Global Arrogance” in the Islamic republic, attacked Rouhani for the failed deal.
Despite this, there is broad agreement among all candidates, including Raisi, that Iran should seek an end to US sanctions in the ongoing talks in Vienna with the aim of reviving the nuclear deal.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism