The ultra-conservative cleric and protégé of the Supreme Leader, Ebrahim Raisi, won the presidential elections with a landslide victory, according to official results from the Interior Ministry. The hardline candidate’s triumph was expected after leading previous polls in a contest that was also marked by low turnout.
At a press conference on Saturday, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli declared that, with a total of 28,933,004 votes cast in the presidential elections, 60-year-old Raisi won more than 17.9 million of votes, followed by Mohsen Rezai, with 3.4 million, Abdolnasser Hemmati, with 2.4 million, and Ghazizadeh Hashemi, with almost one million votes.
With the official results, Raisi becomes the eighth president of the Iranian nation since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the US-backed monarchy.
Iranians went to the polls on June 18 to choose the successor to current President Hasan Rohani from among four candidates, including three ultra-conservatives. However, Raisi was the favorite candidate from the start of the race, when a poll published by the state television ‘Press TV’ gave him 57.3% of the electoral support.
After elections that lasted up to two hours, in which more than 59 million Iranians were called to vote, the day passed with a low turnout compared to the last elections of 2017, according to the news agencies of that country.
Meanwhile, after the landslide victory, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s protégé is expected to assume the presidency for the period 2021-2025 next August.
The position as president of Iran is the second highest ranking in the country, after the supreme leader.
Early on Saturday, the main opponents in the presidential race acknowledged their defeat against Raisi, expressing their first statements of congratulations for the new president of the nation.
In a statement, the reformist and former senior banker, Abdolnasser Hemmati, congratulated Raisi and urged him to work for “the hope, peace and well-being” of the people.
“I hope that your government will provide reasons of pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improve the economy and the comfort of life and well-being of the great nation of Iran,” Hemmati wrote in the statement released by the social network Instragram.
On Twitter, candidate Mohsen Rezai, current secretary of the Council of Discernment and former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, asked Raisi for a “strong and popular government”, expressing his congratulations to the Iranian people for having participated in the electoral process.
For his part, in a televised speech, outgoing President Hasan Rohani also congratulated Raisi on winning the presidential elections.
“As it has not yet been officially announced, I will delay the official congratulations,” Rohani said during a government meeting. “But it is clear that he has obtained enough votes and that he will assume the presidency in 45 days.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, reported by the Reuters news agency, said on Saturday that hardliner Raisi was the country’s newly elected president and that everyone would have to work with him from now on.
An electoral day with low participation
Elections began across the country at 7:00 a.m. local time on Friday with the opening of polling stations, which welcomed voters until midnight. Although, in some tables at the end the deadline was extended until the early hours of Saturday, as confirmed by the Iranian Interior Ministry.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was the first to cast the election vote in a specially installed ballot box in a mosque adjacent to his offices in the capital, Tehran. He then urged Iranian voters to follow his example and participate in the electoral process saying “every vote counts … come vote and elect your president.”
“The sooner you carry out this task and this duty, the better. Everything that the Iranian people do today until tonight, going to the polls and voting, serves to build their future,” said the supreme leader.
After a scant electoral campaign, in which electoral banners are relatively rare in the capital, a social discontent exhausted by the application of economic sanctions by the United States and the Covid-19 pandemic, the electoral day passed with a low turnout , according to the EFE news agency.
While from state television, long lines were seen in front of the electoral colleges of several cities in the country, according to the Reuters agency, although also estimating a much lower turnout than in the last presidential elections of 2017.
The voting centers located both in schools and in mosques and in different areas of the south, east and center of the city were quite “desolate,” reported EFE, indicating that the Hoseiniye Ershad voting center was crowded, although mainly by journalists, since that well-known personalities usually vote there.
According to a poll published by the Iranian Student Survey Agency, linked to the state, a 46% turnout was expected, which would be the lowest in the country since 1979, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The latest polls expect a turnout slightly below 50%, which would remain lower than in 2017, when 73% of voters went to the polls.
Candidates called to participate in the electoral process
The favorite Raisi, dressed in a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran, and called on Iranians to participate.
“I beg all of you, the lovely young men and all Iranian men and women who speak any accent or language, from any region and with any political opinion, to go vote and cast your votes,” Raisi said.
For his part, Hemmati, who voted in Hoseiniye Ershad, said that the main challenge of the next government must be “to end foreign isolation”, referring to the US sanctions imposed since 2017.
“If I do not get (enough) votes, whoever is president must take the development and prosperity of the country to higher levels,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the current president Hasan Rohani, after voting in the Interior Ministry, asserted that “the eyes of the world are on the polls” and asked the population to “disappoint the enemies by participating in the elections.”
“Our people are well aware of how important the elections are to their destiny and to the system of the Islamic Republic,” the president said.
With AFP, AP, EFE and Reuters