Ultraconservative cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, wins Iran’s presidential election

Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian ultraconservative cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi waves after casting his ballot for the presidential election, in the capital Tehran, in this file photo taken on June 18, 2021. (AFP)

With most of the ballots counted, conservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has won 62% of the vote, an Interior Ministry spokesman has said.

Iran’s ultraconservative cleric and judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi appears to have won the presidential election held on Friday, with other contestants in the race conceding defeat and congratulating him.Outgoing moderate President Hassan Rouhani also said in a televised speech on Saturday that his successor had been elected, without naming the winner.

“I congratulate the people on their choice,” said Rouhani. “My official congratulations will come later, but we know who got enough votes in this election and who is elected today by the people.”

Other contestants — including two ultraconservative candidates, Mohsen Rezaei and Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, and a reformist Abdolnasser Hemmati — explicitly congratulated Raisi.

Iranian state television said Raisi had received 62% support, with a majority of the votes counted.

The Interior Ministry is to formally announce the final results later on Saturday, state TV said.

Raisi will succeed Rouhani, who could not run again after serving two consecutive four-year terms. He leaves office in August.

Low voter turnout

Over 59 million Iranians were eligible to vote at home and abroad in Friday’s election.

In the run-up, however, Iranian opposition groups abroad and some dissidents at home had called for a boycott of the vote they see as an engineered victory for Raisi.

Hundreds of moderates were barred from contesting the election by the nation’s Guardian Council.

Turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017, when over 70% of eligible voters cast their vote. Opinion polls suggested the turnout was just around 44%.

What do we know about Raisi?

Raisi, 60, has been the head of the nation’s judiciary since 2019 and belongs to the ultraconservative camp that most deeply distrusts the United States.

He is notorious for his involvement as a prosecutor in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s.

The EU and the US have imposed sanctions on Raisi for his role in the human rights violations that happened in Iran during the nationwide anti-government protests in 2019.

His win would also give more power to Iranian hard-liners amid ongoing talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal struck by Iran and world powers.

Raisi has harshly criticized President Rouhani since the nuclear deal began to unravel under former US President Donald Trump’s administration.

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During the election campaign, Raisi vowed to keep up the fight on graft, construct four million new homes for low-income families, and build “a government of the people for a strong Iran.”

What could a Raisi presidency mean for Iran?

The election came at a critical juncture for Iran. The nation’s economy is struggling to cope with the harsh US sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, after Washington left the international nuclear deal.

The revival of sanctions plunged the economy into recession, and Rouhani came under fire from ultraconservatives for having trusted the West.

The country of 83 million is currently blocked by the US from selling its oil to and trading with much of the world.

As president, Raisi would be confronted with the nation’s dire economic situation and foreign policy challenges.

But even though the president has significant influence to set direction on a wide range of issues, from economic policy to foreign affairs, ultimate power in Iran lies with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Nevertheless, many observers see Raisi as a possible successor to Khamenei, who turns 82 next month, as supreme leader.

sri/mm (DW AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)