Iran’s presidential election candidate Ebrahim Raisi waves to the media after casting his vote at a polling station on June 18, 2021, the day of the Islamic Republic’s presidential election.
Majid Saeedi | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi is leading Iran’s presidential election, an interior ministry official said Saturday, a day after millions of Iranians voted in a contest that critics are boycotting over economic problems and political restrictions.
Raisi had received 17.8 million votes so far, the official said during a televised press conference. More than 28 million Iranians of the 59 million eligible voters cast their votes, the official said.
Raisi, a 60-year-old Shia cleric subject to US sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, was widely expected to win the contest, thanks to the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Raisi’s only moderate rival congratulated him.
“I hope that your government, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will make the Islamic Republic proud, improve livelihoods and ensure the well-being and well-being of the nation,” the media quoted former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati as saying in a statement. letter.
In a televised speech, outgoing president Hassan Rouhani congratulated “the elected (president) of the people”, without naming him.
“Since it has not been officially announced yet, I will postpone the official congratulations. But it is clear who got the votes,” Rouhani said.
Other candidates also congratulated Raisi.
Raisi is a harsh critic of the West and the standard-bearer of Iran’s security hawks.
Accused by critics of human rights abuses going back decades — claims his defenders deny — Raisi was appointed head of the judiciary in 2019 by Khamenei.
The elections come at a critical time. Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal. Then US President Donald Trump left the deal in 2018 and again imposed crippling sanctions that have weighed on Iran’s oil revenues.
Raisi did not offer a detailed political or economic program during his election campaign, but has supported the revival of the nuclear pact, a development that would lead to an easing of US sanctions that have crushed the economy.
Khamenei, not the president, has the final say on all affairs of state such as foreign and nuclear policy.
Lack of choice
Hoping to boost their legitimacy, the country’s ecclesiastical rulers had urged people to vote Friday, but dissidents at home and abroad said popular anger over economic hardship and curtailment of freedoms kept many Iranians at home.
Another deterrent to many reformist voters has been a lack of choice after a tough electoral body barred heavyweight moderate and conservative candidates from running for office.
Analysts said the exclusions by the Guardian Council paved the way for Raisi’s expected win.
Prior to Hemmati’s concession, a US State Department spokesman said: “Iranians were denied their right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process” – a likely reference to the disqualification of candidates.