Iran votes for new president with an eye on nuclear deal, hardliner cleric tipped to win

Iran presidential polls 2021: Ebrahim Raisi, is seen as the dominant front-runner in a field of just four candidates. If elected, he would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office
An Iranian woman walks past banners of ultraconservative cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran, on June 17, 2021, on the eve of the Islamic republic's presidential election. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
An Iranian woman walks past banners of ultraconservative cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran, on June 17, 2021, on the eve of the Islamic republic's presidential election. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Published on Jun 18, 2021 08:59 AM IST
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By | Edited by Joydeep Bose

Presidential polls in Iran began on Friday as citizens queued up for voting in an election that is seen to be overwhelmingly in favour of ultraconservative hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The current president, Hassan Rouhani, is widely supported but is forbidden under the constitution from serving a third four-year term. That he might be succeeded by Khamenei's conservative ally fueling public apathy and sparking calls for a boycott in the Islamic Republic, reported the Associated Press.

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Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast the first vote just after 7am (0230 GMT) at a specially installed ballot box at a mosque adjoining his offices in the capital, according to updates provided by the news agency AFP. He then urged Iran's nearly 60 million eligible voters to follow suit, saying: "The sooner you perform this task and duty, the better. Everything that the Iranian people do today until tonight, by going to the polls and voting, serves to build their future."

Polls close at midnight (1930 GMT), and possibly two hours later, with results expected around noon Saturday.

What a potential Raisi win means for Iran

Khamenei's ally, Ebrahim Raisi, is seen as the dominant front-runner in a field of just four candidates. If elected, he 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 criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would firmly put hard-liners in control across the Iranian government as negotiations in Vienna continue over trying to save Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers as it enriches uranium to the closest point yet to weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites and assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Iran's nuclear deal and the ultraconservative camp

Outgoing president Hassan Rouhani's key achievement was the landmark 2015 deal with world powers under which Iran pledged to limit its nuclear programme and refrain from acquiring the atomic bomb in return for sanctions relief. But high hopes for greater prosperity and a reopening to the world were crushed in 2018 when then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched an economic and diplomatic "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.

As old and new US sanctions hit Iran, trade dried up and foreign companies bolted. The economy nosedived and spiralling prices fuelled repeated bouts of social unrest which were put down by security forces.

Iran's ultraconservative camp -- which deeply distrusts the United States, labelled the "Great Satan" or the "Global Arrogance" in the Islamic republic -- attacked Rouhani over the failing deal. They swept parliament early last year and now look set to claim the presidency in the nationwide poll that will also elect municipal and other officials.


(With inputs from agencies)

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022