Ultraconservative cleric Raisi wins Iran’s presidential vote

Published June 20, 2021
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi speak to the media after their meeting in Tehran on Saturday.—Reuters
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani and Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi speak to the media after their meeting in Tehran on Saturday.—Reuters

TEHRAN: Ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi was declared the winner on Saturday of Iran’s presidential election, a widely anticipated result after many political heavyweights were barred from running.

Raisi won just shy of 62 percent of the vote in Friday’s election, according to official figures, on a turnout of 48.8 percent, a record low for a presidential poll in the Islamic republic.

“I congratulate the people on their choice,” said outgoing moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who has served the maximum of two consecutive four-year terms and leaves office in August.

Raisi, 60, is set to take over at a critical time, as Iran seeks to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with major powers and free itself from punishing US sanctions that have driven a sharp economic downturn.

“God willing, we will do our best so that the hope for the future now alive in people’s hearts grows further,” said Raisi, adding that he wants to strengthen public trust in the government for a “bright and pleasant life together”.

The head of the Iranian judiciary is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran.

Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulates president-elect on his victory

Friday’s voting was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout.

Many voters chose to stay away after the field of some 600 hopefuls including 40 women had been winnowed down to seven candidates, all men, excluding an ex-president and a former parliament speaker.

Three of the vetted candidates dropped out two days before Friday’s vote.

Populist former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those barred from running by the Guardian Council of clerics and jurists, said he would not vote, declaring in a video message: “I do not want to have a part in this sin.” Ultraconservative Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, placed second with 11.8 percent of votes cast.

He was followed by the only reformist left in the race, former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, who scored 8.4 percent. Another ultraconservative, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, came last with 3.5 percent.

Khamenei hailed the election saying that “the great winner... is the Iranian nation because it has risen up once again in the face of the propaganda of the enemy’s mercenary media”.

Our Staff Reporter in Islamabad adds: Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Iran’s president-elect Ebrahim Raisi on his victory in the 13th presidential election.

Mr Khan in the felicitation tweet marked by extraordinary warmth called Mr Raisi “brother” and described his success in the polls a “landmark victory”.

“Look forward to working with him for further strengthening of our fraternal ties and for regional peace, progress and prosperity,” he said.

Pakistan-Iran relations have witnessed major improvement during the PTI government. There have been frequent exchanges between the two sides. However, Pakistan’s Iran policy still remains constrained by regional influences and US sanctions on Tehran. Little could, therefore, be done to substantively enhance bilateral cooperation and trade despite the apparent political goodwill between the two sides.

Not much is expected to change in Pak-Iran ties after the arrival of the new president. However, US return to the Iran nuclear deal could change the situation.

Although, Mr Raisi has so far not publicly shared his views on foreign policy issues, he had during the campaign said that developing relations with neighbours would be his priority.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2021

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