Khamenei casts vote as Iran elects new president

01:21 PM | 18 Jun, 2021
Khamenei casts vote as Iran elects new president
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Iranians voted in a presidential election on Friday amid concerns over a low turnout with the conservative head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, widely seen as the frontrunner.

Nearly 60 million eligible voters in Iran will decide the fate of four candidates in the fray to succeed President Hassan Rouhani, reported Aljazeera.

The Guardian Council, a 12-member constitutional vetting body under Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei, barred hundreds of candidates including reformists and those aligned with Rouhani.

Polls opened at 7am local time (2:30 GMT) and will close at midnight (19:30 GMT) but can be extended for two hours. The results are expected midday on Saturday.

After casting his vote in the capital Tehran, Ayatollah Khamenei urged Iranians to do the same saying “each vote counts … come and vote and choose your president”.

With uncertainty surrounding Iran’s efforts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal and growing poverty at home after years of United States sanctions, the turnout for the vote is being seen by Iranian analysts as a referendum on the current leadership’s handling of an array of crises.

State television showed long queues outside polling stations in several cities. State-linked opinion polling and analysts put the hardliner Raisi, 60, as the undisputed frontrunner.

Hamid Reza Gholamzadeh, CEO of Diplo House think tank said that Raisi was expected to win the election.

“Based on the polls he has between 60 to 75 percent popularity among those who will vote today,” said Gholamzadeh.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticised judiciary – one of the world’s top executioners.

Voter enthusiasm was dampened by the disqualification of many candidates and the deep economic malaise, which has sparked burgeoning inflation and job losses – the crisis deepened by the COVID pandemic.

“I’m not a politician, I don’t know anything about politics,” a Tehran car mechanic who gave his name as Nasrollah said. “I have no money. All families are now facing economic problems. How can we vote for these people who did this to us? It’s not right.”