The Iranians elected a new president on Friday in a campaign led by hard-line candidates close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Popular anger over economic difficulties and restrictions on freedom will cause many Iranians who support reform stay in the country.
The front runner in the scrutinized field is Ebrahim Raisi, a tough judge who is regarded by analysts and insiders as representing the most terrifying security agency.
However, the authorities’ hopes for high turnout rates and increased legitimacy may be frustrated, as official opinion polls show that only about 40% of the more than 59 million eligible Iranians will vote.
After the tough electoral agency banned heavyweight moderate and conservative candidates from running for elections, critics of the government attributed this prospect to the outrage caused by US sanctions and an economy lacking voter choice.
The race to succeed the pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani will be between five hardliners who accept Khamenei’s strong anti-Western worldview, including Raisi and former nuclear negotiator Said Jalili, and two low-key players. Moderates.
The limited choice of candidates reflects the political demise of Iran’s pragmatist politicians, weakened by Washington’s decision to quit a 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in a move that stifled rapprochement with the West.
“They have aligned sun, moon and the heavens to make one particular person the president,” said moderate candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh in a televised election debate.
While the establishment’s core supporters will vote, hundreds of dissidents, both at home and abroad, have called for a boycott, including opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, under house arrest since 2011.
“I will stand with those who are tired of humiliating and engineered elections and who will not give in to behind-the-scenes, stealthy and secretive decisions,” Mousavi said in a statement, according to the opposition Kalameh website.
Mousavi and fellow reformist Mehdi Karoubi ran for election in 2009. They became figureheads for pro-reform Iranians who staged mass protests after the vote was won by a hardliner, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a contest they believed was rigged.