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According to initial results, the former commander of the Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezaei received 3.3 million votes and the moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati received 2.4 million votes, said Jamal Orf, the head of the election headquarters of the Iranian Ministry of the Interior. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.
Hemmati congratulated Raisi on Instagram early on Saturday.
“I hope your government gives the Islamic Republic of Iran cause for pride, improves the economy and lives with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.
On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for participating in the vote.
“God willing, the decisive choice of my esteemed brother Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi set up a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems, ”Rezaei wrote.
The swift concessions, which were not uncommon in the previous election in Iran, signaled what semi-official news outlets in Iran had been suggesting for hours: that the carefully controlled vote was a victory for Raisi amid calls for boycotts.
When Friday night fell, the turnout was far lower than in the last presidential election in Iran in 2017. At a polling station in a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite clergyman was playing soccer with a young boy while most of his workers were napping in a courtyard did. On the other hand, officials watched videos on their cell phones while state television boomed next to them, only showing accurate footage of locations across the country – in contrast to the long lines of past elections.
The vote ended at 2am on Saturday after the government extended the vote to accommodate so-called “scrum” at several polling stations across the country. Paper ballots put in large plastic boxes were to be counted by hand all night, and the authorities did not expect the first results and voter turnouts until Saturday morning at the earliest.
“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of those voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the skills to do it,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who only gave her first name as he got into a taxi rushes to Haft-e-Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I don’t have a candidate here.”
Iranian state television tried to downplay voter turnout, citing the Arab sheikdoms ruled by hereditary leaders in the Gulf and lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of increased efforts by officials to get the vote, state television aired scenes of overcrowded voting booths in several provinces overnight to depict a last-minute rush for the polls.
But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the Shah, the Iranian theocracy has cited turnout as a sign of their legitimacy, starting with their first referendum which received 98.2% support, which simply asked whether the people wanted an Islamic Republic or not .
The disqualifications affected reformists and those who support Rouhani, whose governments both achieved the 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers and dissolved it three years later when then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal.
Voter apathy was also fueled by the shattered state of the economy and muted campaigns amid months of rising coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped ballot boxes with disinfectant.
If elected, Raisi would be the first incumbent Iranian president to be sanctioned by the US government before taking office for his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988 and his time as head of the internationally criticized judiciary of Iran – one of those best executioner in the world.
It would also give hardliners across the government firm control as negotiations in Vienna continue to seek to salvage a ragged deal designed to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at the highest levels ever, though it’s still short of gun grades. Tensions remain high with both the US and Israel, who are believed to have carried out a series of attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and murdered the scientist who created his military nuclear program decades earlier.
Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and could thus cite one of the most important moments for the country in decades – the death of 82-year-old Khamenei. There is already speculation that Raisi, along with Khamenei’s son Mojtaba, could be a contender for the position.