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AFP
June 19, 2021

Iran votes for new president with Raisi tipped to win

AFP
June 19, 2021

TEHRAN: Iranians voted on Friday in a presidential election in which ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi is seen as all but certain to coast to victory after all serious rivals were barred from running.

After a lacklustre campaign, turnout was expected to fall to a new low in a country exhausted by a punishing regime of US economic sanctions that has dashed the hopes of many for a brighter future.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast the first vote in Tehran and then urged Iran’s nearly 60 million eligible voters to follow suit before the scheduled close of polls at midnight (1930 GMT). “The sooner you perform this task and duty, the better,” said the 81-year-old, stressing that voting “serves to build the future” of the Iranian people.

After casting his vote, President Hassan Rouhani said that “elections are important no matter what” but acknowledged he would have liked to see “more people present” at the polling stations.

Pictures of often flag-waving voters dominated state TV coverage, but away from the polling stations some voiced anger at what they saw as a stage-managed election.

“Whether I vote or not, someone has already been elected,” scoffed Tehran shopkeeper Saeed Zareie about the pre-election vetting that barred all but seven of the more than 600 hopefuls. “They organise the elections for the media.”

Enthusiasm has been dampened further by the economic malaise of spiralling inflation and job losses, that has been deepened by the Covid pandemic.

Iranian opposition groups abroad and some dissidents at home have urged a boycott of the vote they see as an engineered victory for Raisi, the 60-year-old head of the judiciary, to cement ultraconservative control.

But many queued to vote at schools, mosques and community centres, some carrying Iran’s green, white and red national flag.

One conservative mother wearing the full-body black chador came with her two young sons dressed in the camouflage uniform of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Many said they supported Raisi, who has promised an anti-corruption drive and to build millions of flats for low-income families.

A nurse named Sahebiyan said she backed Raisi for his battle against graft and on hopes he would “move the country forward... and save the people from economic, cultural and social deprivation”.

Iran has often pointed to voter participation for democratic legitimacy—but polls signal it may drop below the 43 percent of last year’s parliamentary election.

Results are expected around noon (0730 GMT) Saturday. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held on Friday next week.