Hardline decide Raisi leads in Iranian presidential election, says official

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Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate in Iran’s presidential election, 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, the day after millions of Iranians voted in a competition boycotting critics over economic problems and political restrictions.

Raisi has won 17.8 million votes so far, the official said at a televised press conference. More than 28 million Iranians out of 59 million eligible voters cast their votes, the official said.

Raisi, a 60-year-old Shiite clergyman under US sanctions for alleged human rights violations, was widely expected to win the competition thanks to the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Raisi’s only moderate rival congratulated him.

“I hope your government, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will make the Islamic Republic proud, improve its livelihoods and ensure the welfare and welfare of the nation,” the media quoted former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati in a letter.

In a televised address, the outgoing President Hassan Rouhani congratulated “the elected (President)” without naming him.

“Because it has not yet been officially announced, I am postponing the official congratulations. But it is clear who received the votes,” said Rouhani.

Other candidates also congratulated Raisi.

Raisi is a sharp critic of the West and the standard-bearer of the Iranian security hawks.

Accused by critics of decades of human rights abuses – allegations that his defense lawyers deny – Raisi was appointed senior justice chief by Khamenei in 2019.

The choice comes at a critical time. Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal. Then in 2018 US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal and again imposed crippling sanctions that have depressed Iran’s oil revenues.

Raisi did not offer a detailed political or economic program during his election campaign, but he did support the revival of the nuclear pact, a development that would ease the US sanctions that have battered the economy.

Khamenei, not the president, has the final say on all state affairs such as foreign and nuclear policy.

Lack of choice

Hoping to bolster their legitimacy, the country’s clerical rulers had urged people to appear and vote on Friday, but dissidents at home and abroad said popular anger over economic hardship and restrictions on freedoms were holding many Iranians off Home.

Another deterrent to many pro-reform voters was the lack of choice after a hard-line electoral body banned heavyweight moderate and conservative candidates from running.

Analysts said the Guardian Council’s expulsions paved the way for Raisi’s expected victory.

Prior to Hemmati’s admission, a US State Department spokesman said, “Iranians have been denied the right to elect their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process” – a likely indicator of the disqualification of candidates.

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