Iranians head to the polls with ultraconservative Raisi tipped to win

Lawrence Kim
June 19, 2021

"The sooner you perform this task and duty, the better", said the 81-year-old, stressing that voting "serves to build the future" of the Iranian people.

Out of an initial field of nearly 600 hopefuls for the presidency, only seven - all men - were approved to run by the Guardian Council, a body of 12 clerics and jurists.

For the exiled Iranian opposition and rights groups, Raisi's name is indelibly associated with the mass executions of leftists in 1988, when he was deputy prosecutor of Tehran's Revolutionary Court, although he has denied involvement.

Khamenei, who implored citizens to vote in televised remarks two days before the election, preemptively blamed low turnout on foreign plots. In recent days, a more militant faction advocating boycott has been threatening Iranian voters online.

His only real rival is Abdolnaser Hemmati, a political centrist who served as central bank governor and is trying to rally support from Iranian moderate and reformist voters.

Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, an ally and protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is favourite to succeed the pragmatist incumbent Hassan Rouhani, forbidden under the constitution from serving a third four-year term.

"Khamenei does not want dissent from the presidential office, especially not now that he faces unprecedented challenges", said Javedanfar. As supreme leader, Khamenei has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program. "How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?"

"If we do not vote: Sanctions will be heavier, the USA and Israel will be encouraged to attack Iran", the leaflet warned.

Iranian election officials prepare ballot boxes at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021. But polls have shown Raisi with an overwhelming advantage over Hemmati and two other candidates.

But high hopes for greater prosperity and a reopening to the world were crushed in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched an economic and diplomatic "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.

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.

The decision to limit participation comes as whoever wins likely will serve two four-year terms as almost every Iranian president has since the revolution.

"Raisi being elected will justify and legitimise America's human rights sanctions against the Islamic Republic", said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born expert on Iran at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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