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Khamenei protege wins Iran election amid low turnout

Economic Indicators Jun 20, 2021 06:26AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi looks on at a polling station during presidential elections in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS 2/2

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) -Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline judge who is under U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, secured victory as expected on Saturday in Iran's presidential election after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.

With all 28.9 million ballots counted, Raisi was elected with a tally of 17.9 million, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said on state TV.

Turnout in Friday's four-man race was a record low of around 48.8% and there were 3.7 million invalid ballots that were likely to have been mostly blank or protest votes.

Appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019, Raisi was placed under U.S. sanctions a few months later over human rights violations.

Those included the role that human rights group say Raisi played in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1988 and in the violent suppression of unrest in 2009.

Iran has never acknowledged the mass executions, and Raisi himself has never publicly addressed allegations about his role.

Seen by analysts and insiders as representing the security establishment at its most fearsome, Raisi, 60, had been widely tipped to win the contest, thanks to Khamenei's endorsement.

Iran's regional allies, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and militant Islamist group Hamas welcomed Raisi's election. Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said his victory was "a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran".

"We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction," she said in a statement.

Outgoing pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani, barred by the constitution from seeking a third term, visited Raisi at his office to congratulate him, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would lead Iran well.

"Backed by your high vote and exceptional confidence, I will form a hard-working, revolutionary and anti-corruption government," state media quoted Raisi as saying in a statement.

Raisi, who takes office in early August, said he will be a president for all Iranians - whether they voted for him or for the other candidates, or did not vote at all.

NUCLEAR TALKS

Raisi's election comes at a critical time.

Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal. Donald Trump, U.S. president at the time, abandoned the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have squeezed Iran's oil income.

However, with Iran's ruling clerics aware their political fortunes rely on tackling worsening economic hardships, Raisi's win will not disrupt Iran's effort to revive the pact and break free of tough U.S. oil and financial sanctions.

Nonetheless, some analysts predicted his hardline stances could deter foreign investors.

"Raisi’s hardline political and economic beliefs will limit the scope for significant foreign investment if a deal is reached and further isolate Tehran from the West," said senior analyst Henry Rome at Eurasia Group.

Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on all issue of state such as Iran's foreign and nuclear policies.

Seeking to win over voters preoccupied by bread-and-butter issues, Raisi has promised to create millions of jobs and tackle inflation, without offering a detailed political or economic programme.

LACK OF CHOICE

Hoping to boost their legitimacy, the country's clerical rulers had urged people to turn out and vote on Friday, but simmering anger over economic hardships and curbs on freedoms kept many Iranians at home.

Khamenei said the turnout displayed the clerical establishment's popularity. But more than half of eligible voters were too dissatisfied to vote or appeared to have heeded calls by hundreds of dissidents, at home and abroad, to boycott the vote.

Another deterrent for many pro-reform voters was a lack of choice, after a hardline election body barred heavyweight moderates and conservatives from standing.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Friday: "Iranians were denied their right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process" - a likely reference to the disqualification of candidates.

Many pro-reform Iranians fear Raisi's presidency could usher in more repression.

"I am scared. I don't want to go back to jail again. I am certain that any kind of dissent will not be tolerated," said Hamidreza, 31, who declined to give his full name. He was jailed for participating in unrest in 2019 that broke out over fuel price hikes and quickly turned political.

Analysts say the election win could increase Raisi's chances of succeeding Khamenei, who himself served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader in 1989.

Khamenei protege wins Iran election amid low turnout
 

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Comments (9)
smn mn
smn mn Jun 20, 2021 3:32AM ET
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who cares?
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jun 19, 2021 3:51PM ET
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Everything is arranged there by the supreme leader. Votes dont count. Why Reuters write this propaganda?
New Jazenevd
New Jazenevd Jun 19, 2021 3:51PM ET
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Reuters used to write propaganda. It is professional.
Adrian White
Adrian White Jun 19, 2021 3:51PM ET
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How is it propaganda? They simply wrote about what happened, and they made it pretty clear that the guy who was "elected" is not a great guy, and that it was pretty much a farce of an election with no real choice. Seems pretty factual to me.
roozbeh yazdani
roozbeh yazdani Jun 19, 2021 3:51PM ET
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you dont know anything about iran so please dont judge quickly
David David
David9 Jun 19, 2021 3:51PM ET
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How do you know it is arranged? Give proof...
New Jazenevd
New Jazenevd Jun 19, 2021 2:36PM ET
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Hope, Burisma Joe already sent congratulations.
Steffen vdm
Steffen vdm Jun 19, 2021 12:53PM ET
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How many votes did the Democrats get? And the Greens? The Labour party? What about the Socialists? Any chance for a stable coalition?
Ahmad Sohani
Ahmad Sohani Jun 19, 2021 12:53PM ET
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There was no other party. Just one party has 7 candidates in the election which all of them were Supreme Leader choice. Technically entire election was a joke and mostly no one showed up to vote.
James Franigan
James Franigan Jun 19, 2021 12:49PM ET
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As the top terrorist of the Iran terror regime Raisi will now sit across the table from Biden. Why are we so anxious to resurrect the nuclear deal with this terrorist regime?
John Doe
ForexInsiders Jun 19, 2021 12:21PM ET
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"low turnout" I think we all know what that means
Hamid Reza Miri
Hamid Reza Miri Jun 19, 2021 3:21AM ET
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I'm from iran , I'm not satisfied
Kevin Avila
Kevin Avila Jun 19, 2021 3:21AM ET
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Take out the goverment and ****your leaders… Iraq is stronger than you… They did it.
Danial Harith Ridzuan
Danial Harith Ridzuan Jun 19, 2021 2:45AM ET
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Congrats Raisi
Michael Dell
Michael Dell Jun 19, 2021 2:33AM ET
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Every country has turnouts in the 50s its not a big deal
hamid rashidi
hamid rashidi Jun 19, 2021 2:33AM ET
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you should compare results in every country context. 4 years ago the turnouts was 73% and Mr, Raisi had roughly the same amount of votes 16 million votes vs 17.8 of this time, but became second. 23% lower turnout was because of those people intentionally boycotted the elaction.
 
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