There were indications on Friday afternoon that turnout in the election by the country’s conservative clerical rulers would be lower than expected, as many moderate voters saw a poll as already concluding. Pre-election polling predicted that the turnout could drop below 50% for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said after casting his first vote early Friday: “Every vote counts… Come and vote and choose your president… This is important for the future of your country.” Low turnout will increase the pressure of enemies.
Raisi emerged as the frontrunner after an election supervisory body known as the Guardian Council barred its main rivals from the race. The move was widely criticized, even by Khamenei, who called some of the disqualifications “unjustified”.
Raisi’s expected victory will be a turning point for Iran. The next government will face the economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and calls for constitutional reform. Tehran is currently locked in talks with the United States about how to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Questions are also being raised about 81-year-old Khamenei’s succession plans. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, under Iran’s political system, it is the supreme leader who makes the final decisions on all major matters of the state. Analysts said Raisi’s victory in Friday’s presidential election could pave the way for him to become the next Supreme Leader.
“It’s okay for people to be upset and maybe some are upset by the current situation, but I’m asking all Iranians to come to the polls to solve their problems,” Raisi tweeted after casting his vote. Friday.
According to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency, Raisi also said, “I hope people will feel the change soon… I consider myself a servant of all the people of Iran.”
According to rights groups, in 1988, Raisi was part of a four-person death panel that executed 5,000 political prisoners, many of whom were later buried in unmarked graves.
Raisi never commented on the allegations, but it is widely believed that he rarely leaves Iran hanging for fear of retaliation or international justice.
A few months after Khamenei was made the judicial head of Raisi in 2019, the US sanctioned him for his role in the 1988 executions and for his involvement in the suppression of the anti-government Green Movement of 2009.
Call for boycott of workers
But many Iranians appeared to shy away from the election, which they see as a heavily engineered election designed to further consolidate the power of the country’s hardline clerical rulers, despite calls for reform by the public. In the past few days, three candidates have dropped out of the race, two of them conservatives who were apparently trying to further boost Raisi’s chances.
Activists on social media called on people to boycott the vote. A 22-year-old man said before the election, “I will not vote. I don’t think it is very effective for the situation in the country.” “It’s possible that we already know what’s about to happen.”
“The government itself has already chosen [the president]. It’s the truth,” said a disgruntled middle-aged man. “We’re in a bad position. We have to choose only what they have chosen for us.”
All Iranians who criticized the election in an interview with CNN asked not to be named for security reasons.
On Friday, the head of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, blamed the Trump administration for “frustrating” Iranian voters with its so-called maximum pressure campaign on Tehran. Trump withdrew the US from the 2018 nuclear deal with Iran and imposed tough sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Fears in the government over voter apathy prompted Khamenei to make a last-minute appeal to voters on Thursday, warning that poor turnout would play into the hands of Iran’s “enemies” and destabilize the country. Earlier, Khamenei warned that empty votes would be considered a “sin”.
But in the days before polling, election posters were sparse, campaign centers largely empty and the mood gloomy.
One woman said before the vote, “I don’t care about the elections. Who’s there to look after us? Rouhani… Khamenei? They’re driving us from person to person like a basketball.” His financial troubles including being unable to provide necessary medicine for his ailing son.
“The worst thing that could happen to me because of my objections is that I was arrested and killed,” she said. “But it’s better than watching my son die of the disease.”