Dubai: Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday urged voters to participate in the June 18 presidential election, saying that this demonstration of strength would reduce foreign pressure on Iran.
On Wednesday, two hardliners and a moderate withdrew from the seven officially allowed candidates, creating a direct contest between the head of the hardline judiciary and the moderate former central bank governor.
Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, 60, an ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is widely tipped as the favourite to succeed Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist stepping down after two terms.
“In less than 48 hours, a crucial event will take place in the country… By your presence and vote, you actually determine the fate of the country, in all major issues,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.
Under the Iranian ruling system, the supreme leader has the final decision on national affairs, while the elected president manages the country’s daily affairs.
Last month, the hard-line Guardianship Council disqualified several well-known moderate and conservative candidates, leaving a field dominated by hard-liners. Abdolnasser Hemmati, as Raisi’s main moderate challenger, ceased to serve as a central banker. Long campaign.
It was announced on Wednesday that former nuclear negotiator Said Jalili and hard-line MP Ali Reza Zakani’s withdrawal will help consolidate the hard-line vote behind Raisy. The gentle Mohsen Mehralizadeh also stood by and supported Hemmati. The other two hardline candidates remain on the ballot, but they can give way or support Raisi before voting on Friday.
As the public is increasingly frustrated with economic difficulties and political restrictions, restricted areas may further weaken the clergy’s hopes for high turnout.
Some well-known Iranian politicians who support reforms and militants abroad have called for a boycott of the election. In the past few weeks, the hashtag #NoToIslamicRepublic has been widely released by Iranians at home and abroad.
Official opinion polls indicate that the turnout rate may be as low as 41%, which is significantly lower than in past elections.
On the occasion of the election, Iran is negotiating with world powers in Vienna to restore an agreement reached in 2015 under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
US President Joe Biden wants to restore the agreement abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump. Although the agreement is a landmark achievement for the outgoing President Rouhani, the election is not expected to have a significant impact on the Iranian negotiating position set by Khamenei.
But a strong mandate for Raisi could strengthen Khamenei’s hand at home, and affect the search for an eventual successor to the 82-year-old supreme leader, in power for 32 years.
“If the new president is elected by a significant majority of the votes, he will be a powerful president and can carry out great tasks,” Khamenei said. “If we have a fall in the election turnout, we will have an increase of pressure from our enemies.”