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
Ebrahim Raisi, a harsh judge under US sanctions for human rights violations, won a landslide in Iran’s presidential election on Saturday after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardship and political restrictions.
With all 28.9 million votes counted, Raisi was elected with a total of 17.9 million, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said on state television. Turnout in Friday’s four-man race was a record low of around 48.8%.
Raisi was appointed head of the judiciary in 2019 by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was placed under US sanctions a few months later for human rights violations.
These include the role that human rights groups claim Raisi played in the 1988 executions of thousands of political prisoners and the violent crackdown on unrest in 2009.
Iran has never acknowledged the mass executions, and Raisi himself has never publicly addressed allegations about his role.
Raisi, 60, who was seen by analysts and insiders as representing the security institute in his most terrifying way, was widely tipped to win the match, thanks to Khamenei’s endorsement.
While Iran’s regional allies — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, militant Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah — welcomed Raisi’s election, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said his victory was “a stark reminder that impunity is rampant in Iran.”
“We continue to call for an investigation into Ebrahim Raisi for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states exercising universal jurisdiction,” she said in a statement.
Outgoing pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, who was barred by the constitution from seeking a third term, visited Raisi at his office to congratulate him, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would lead Iran well.
“We will be on standby for the next 45 days and fully cooperate with the elected president, when the new government takes charge (early August),” state media quoted Rouhani as saying.
Raisi’s election comes at a critical time.
Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal. Donald Trump, then US president, left the deal in 2018 and again imposed crippling sanctions that have strained Iran’s oil revenues.
With Iran’s ruling clerics realizing that their political fortunes depend on dealing with mounting economic hardship, Raisi’s victory will help Iran’s attempt to revive the pact and ease the heavy US oil and financial crisis. breach sanctions.
Nevertheless, some analysts predicted that his tough stance could deter foreign investors.
“Raisi’s tough political and economic convictions will limit room for significant foreign investment if a deal is reached and further isolate Tehran from the West,” said senior analyst Henry Rome at Eurasia Group.
Khamenei, not the president, has the final say on all state issues, such as Iran’s foreign and nuclear policy.
“We will do everything we can in the new government to solve the problem of people’s livelihood,” state media quoted Raisi as saying.
To win over voters preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues, Raisi has pledged to create millions of jobs and tackle inflation, without offering a detailed political or economic program.
Lack of choice
Hoping to bolster their legitimacy, the country’s ecclesiastical rulers had urged people to vote Friday, but simmering anger over economic hardship and restrictions on freedoms kept many Iranians at home.
Khamenei said the turnout showed the popularity of the church establishment. But more than half of voters were too dissatisfied to vote or appeared to have heeded calls from hundreds of dissidents at home and abroad to boycott the vote.
Another deterrent to many reformist voters has been a lack of choice, after a tough electoral agency barred heavyweight moderates and conservatives from standing.
A US State Department spokesman said Friday: “Iranians were denied their right to elect their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process” — a likely reference to the disqualification of candidates.
Many reformist Iranians fear that Raisi’s presidency could lead to more repression.
“I’m scared. I don’t want to go back to jail again. I’m sure any dissent will not be tolerated,” said Hamidreza, 31, who declined to give his full name. He was jailed for participating in unrest in 2019 that erupted over fuel price hikes and quickly turned political.
Analysts say the election victory could boost Raisi’s chances of succeeding Khamenei, who himself served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader in 1989.
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